Uruguay Casino Workers Strike Over Online Gambling Plans

  • Union members met with a governing board Wednesday
  • Casino workers are prepared to strike for 24 hours
  • Critics of online gambling cite rising problem gambling and money laundering rates
  • There is little evidence supporting many of the union’s claims
striking workers
Uruguay casino workers are on strike over proposed online gambling expansion. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Taking a stance

Dissension in Uruguay over new gambling legislation is increasing as brick-and-mortar gaming employees went on strike in protest of online expansion.

The National Federation of Gambling Workers (Fenaju) released a statement that noted “concern about the impact the current online gambling project” that is making its way through parliament “will have on the health of the population.” Regardless, the government is expected to keep moving the new measures through the chambers.

will likely force the cancelation of several lottery draws and upset frequent casino-goers

The union plans on holding a 24-hour strike with over 3,500 union members. The Montevideo Portal revealed that, although inconsequential from a broader perspective, the strike will likely force the cancelation of several lottery draws and upset frequent casino-goers. 

Problems with online gambling in Uruguay

The union for casino employees is concerned that the integration of online gambling will lead to less money for casinos and an increase in platforms for money laundering. 

Union representatives appeared before the Budget Committee of the Chamber of Deputies Wednesday to discuss resolutions. Although the union conceded that it was not totally opposed to online gambling, it took issue with the structure in which the online market was being assembled.

there is little evidence supporting their claim that online gambling reduces the size of casino crowds

Unfortunately for the dissenting workers, there is little evidence supporting their claim that online gambling reduces the size of casino crowds. In fact, there is a belief that the two work together to build each other up.

Union members also expressed concerns over the potential increase of problem gambling that comes with adding online casinos. They referenced European countries as evidence, although no direct cases were mentioned or found.

Spain, notably, decreased its problem gambling rate after legalizing its online market, which has become one of the country’s leading sectors in e-commerce. 

Public concerns and plans

Members of Uruguay’s executive branch were present at Wednesday’s meeting to defend their plans for online gambling. There have been no signs that they will slow down their progress, even after hearing from union members.

Gustavo Anselmi, head of the Directorate General of Casinos, called upon industry experts to discuss the issue. The assembly noted that countries with online gambling, such as nearby Argentina, have larger gambling markets than those that do not, but that in-person wagering still thrived next to an online arm.

Gambling is a disease and must be treated by public health.”

Strangely, although Anselmi is fixed on the creation of an online market, he has also acknowledged the peril of betting in any form. Referencing a report from Hospital de Clínicas, which said that roughly 100 people were treated for gambling addiction in 2021, he said “Gambling is a disease and must be treated by public health.”

The roughly 100 cases are up from 2020’s total of 78, though it is also a tiny fraction of Uruguay’s population of over 3.5 million.

Uruguay has already denied access to over 1,500 offshore betting sites looking to poach the market. There is extreme interest in a mostly underdeveloped Latin American betting market, with companies such as Sportium partnering with Manchester City to gain more access to the area.