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Gov. Rosselló Resigns, But Puerto Rico Sports Betting Still on Track

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We've seen a stampede of jurisdictions rushing to legalize sports betting in the wake of the landmark May 2018 Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. NCAA, but all of them have been located in the continental United States. We must now head a bit afield to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which is not a state but rather a U.S. territory.

Legislative Chamber in Puerto RicoLawmakers Approved of Puerto Rico Sports Betting and Sent the Bill to Governor on July 19

Lawmakers in this tropical isle have passed PC.0238, a bill to legalize and regulate sports betting. It was sent to Governor Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló for his signature on July 19.

Governor Rosselló Able to Sign?

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Ricardo Rosselló is a big proponent of Puerto Rican legalized betting, and it was he who began the legislative push earlier this year to make it happen. A few months ago, Governor Rosselló explained his views:

This industry has the potential to convert Puerto Rico into a jurisdiction in the vanguard of allowing the establishment of this new model, which will have a positive effect on our economy. We have worked on aggressive legislation that aspires at being able to market the island at the international and national levels as an attractive destination for the millions of people who bet on sports events.

However, Governor Rosselló will soon not be in any position to sign PC.2038 – or any other bill for that matter. You see, he has resigned his office, effective Aug. 2, following weeks of protests and a legislative inquiry that determined that there were grounds to begin impeachment proceedings. These events took place after the release of private chat messages that Rosselló's detractors claim demonstrated homophobia and misogyny on the part of the governor.

Ricardo RossellóEmbattled Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló

Rosselló still has time to sign PC.2038 within the 10-day window mandated by Puerto Rican law. He may instead veto it during this time although this is unlikely. The most probable result is that Rosselló, with his mind on other things, will neglect to take any action, which means that the bill will become law without his signature.

[UPDATE: Aug. 4, 2019]

As expected, Governor Rosselló stepped down from his office on Friday, Aug. 2. However, he did affix his signature to the sports betting bill before he left.

After approving the bill on Monday, July 29, Rosselló released a press statement in which he commented: “By signing this law, we are getting ready to witness the potential it provides to transform Puerto Rico into a vanguard jurisdiction, while benefitting the local economy. With this legislation, the island will be able to market itself nationally and internationally as an attractive destination for sports betting events.”

Sports Betting Details

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PC.2038 sets forth the establishment of a Gaming Commission, which will consist of seven members. This group will be tasked with the issuance of sports betting licenses as well as the regulation of the industry as a whole. Moreover, the preexisting Administration of the Equestrian Sports Industry and Gambling Division of the Tourism Office will be folded into the new Commission's infrastructure to achieve bureaucratic consolidation and eliminate waste.

Sports betting will be allowed to take place at casinos, racetracks, off-track betting facilities, and even those arenas that once hosted cockfighting despite that activity now being illegal. The island already has an established casino industry, so there will be little barrier to entry as these facilities will be able to create sportsbooks in no time at all.

Ritz Carlton Hotel Casino in San JuanExisting Land-Based Casino Properties, Like the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Juan, Will Be Able to Host Sports Betting

Beyond just traditional venues that already offer real money gaming of some form or another, there will be an expansion into new areas. Establishments that are in compliance with health and safety laws and that have a proper business plan will be able to obtain licenses subject, of course, to the approval of the Gaming Commission. This could mean that grocery stores, gas stations, and other small retailers may be permitted to house betting kiosks on premises.

Betting locations will have to be located at least 100 meters away from schools, religious edifices, and gambling addiction treatment centers. Wagering on amateur athletics will be prohibited.

The most exciting part of the new law is that it allows online betting. This includes regular sportsbook offerings along with eSports wagering and daily fantasy sports.

Financial Matters

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Licenses can be obtained for fees that range from as little as $2,500 for satellite and point-of-sale licenses to as much as $50,000 for internet and master operator licenses. However, these are the minimum amounts specified in the law; the Gaming Commission will have the authority to institute higher fees if it so chooses.

The bill mandates that all physical sports betting revenue be taxed at 7% while online sports betting revenue will be taxed at 12%, both of which compare adequately to the numbers we have seen in other states.

The taxes derived from sports betting will go to a few different organizations. Half of all revenues brought in will go directly into the Commonwealth’s pension fund. The police will receive 15%, and the Municipal Improvement Fund will get 10%. The Department of Recreation and Sports will get 5%, and another 5% will be earmarked for nonprofit organizations that promote sports in Puerto Rico. Educational programs will benefit from 10% of the proceeds, and finally, 5% of the tax money will go toward gambling anti-addiction services.

A Much-Needed Influx of Revenue

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Nearly two years have passed since Hurricane Maria wreaked devastation on Puerto Rico; however, the island is still recovering and rebuilding. There were a plethora of stories regarding how the island Commonwealth was struggling to rebuild, and this stressed the island’s financial resources mightily. Tourism is bouncing back, but it is no secret that additional revenue will only help aid the recovery effort.

Some estimates project that tax money from sports betting will amount to anywhere from $30 to $90 million over the next few years. Other estimates have produced slightly smaller numbers, but it seems as though $50 million in tax revenue per annum is very much realistic.

Puerto Rico Has Legalized Sports Betting

Bet Online Today!

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You needn't endure the drama of the crazed Puerto Rican political scene if you intend to bet on sports online. Regardless of whether or not the political leaders in San Juan get their acts together to bring forth legalized sports betting in a timely way, there are already international online sportsbooks that are happy to do business with you.

For more info on this topic, check out our top USA-friendly internet bookmakers. If you'd rather play poker, then our guide to poker online for Americans should certainly interest you. Finally, if you have your heart set on slots, blackjack, and other casino gaming, then browse over to our list of reputable online casinos for US residents.