Chile’s Football Association Cut Ties with Betsson Amid Legal Challenges
Chile’s National Association of Professional Football (ANFP) recently severed its longstanding partnership with Betsson AB, marking the end of Betsson’s role as the title sponsor of the prestigious Campeonato Nacional.
This move comes in response to a legal ruling by the Supreme Court of Chile.
Betsson’s Sponsorship Under Scrutiny
In 2022, the ANFP and Betsson inked a lucrative $8 million contract, designating Betsson as the title sponsor for Campeonato Nacional, the top-tier division of Chilean football, as well as a significant sponsor for the Chilean national XI, ‘La Roja.’ Nevertheless, the Supreme Court’s decision, prompted by an appeal from Polla Chilena, a football pools operator, challenged the legality of such sponsorships, demanding the suspension of unlicensed online gambling platforms.
ANFP President Pablo Milad has vowed to pursue legal action to safeguard existing sponsorships, emphasizing their crucial role in supporting the sport financially.
The Role of ANFP President and Criticism from Football Figures
This decision has not escaped the scrutiny of prominent Chilean football figures, including player Arturo Vidal, who questioned the government’s approach to financing domestic football leagues. While the government is in the process of crafting a new Federal Gambling Law to regulate online gambling activities, various challenges, such as ensuring income guarantees for professional football clubs, revising advertising laws, and establishing government controls for online gambling businesses, have hindered the law’s progress.
Meanwhile, in 2021 and 2022, ANFP entered into a sponsorship agreement with Betsson for the División B. This arrangement quickly caught the attention of the Superintendencia de Casinos de Juego (SCJ), which contended that it violated Chilean laws prohibiting online gambling operations.
Lawsuit from Dreams Casino Group and ANFP’s Response
In September 2021, ANFP received a notice from the SCJ, alerting them to a lawsuit filed by Dreams, the casino group that owns Monticello, against Betsson. The lawsuit raised questions about the legality of the advertising contract between ANFP and Betsson, which allowed Betsson to sponsor the Ascenso championship. This sponsorship continued into 2022, despite the SCJ’s reservations.
The SCJ referred to Article 5 of Law 19,995 as the legal basis for its concerns. This article outlines the regulation and authorization of casinos, specifically excluding online gambling activities from the permissions granted. Since Betsson is a Swedish online casino and not registered as a Chilean company, this arrangement came under scrutiny.
According to the SCJ and the plaintiffs, any promotional or advertising activities related to online gambling were seen as equally unlawful. While the SCJ lacked jurisdiction over ANFP, they referred the case to the Ministry of Public Prosecution, raising potential violations of the current legal framework by Betsson’s online platform.
Penalties and Potential Violations
The SCJ’s concerns about potential violations pointed to Articles 277 and 278 of the Penal Code, which stipulate penalties for individuals associated with casinos. These penalties could range from imprisonment to substantial fines for owners, administrators, agents, and even gamblers.
The SCJ expressed its willingness to cooperate with any inquiries related to its functions, although ANFP maintained that the SCJ did not have jurisdiction over the sports association. They have suggested that they possess a response addressing the legal issues raised by the SCJ, but as of yet, this response has not been disclosed.
Furthermore, the Parliamentary Sports Committee received input from Pablo Milad and Dreams’ corporate attorney, Carlos Silva, as they discussed a proposed bill aimed at prohibiting advertising by betting companies during sporting events. Silva argued that this bill was a logical response to the illegal nature of such activities, while Milad expressed support for regulating online casinos, stressing their significant but not indispensable financial contributions to the world of sports. He also proposed a three-year transition period for regularizing the situation with betting companies if the bill passes.
As of August 2, the Economic Committee of the Chamber of Deputies resumed its work on a bill initiated during the presidency of Sebastián Piñera, which seeks to regulate online betting companies. The bill aims to address the legal challenges and complexities surrounding online gambling and advertising in Chile.