As Mexico’s presidential race heats up ahead of the elections on 1 July, the ascendence of a populist presidential candidate has put a dampener on positive forecasts for the gaming market.
Gaming legislation in Mexico dates back to the Betting and Raffles Law of 1947, which banned casinos and gaming throughout the country, although a later amendment opened up the market for sports betting, bingo halls, and slot parlours.
At present, a draft gaming law – which would also regulate iGaming – has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies but is yet to be approved by the Senate. So in a best case scenario, the presidential elections could potentially open the door for the introduction of new legislation by 2019 or 2020.
However, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known by his initials, AMLO) has been leading the polls since October, but while his anti-establishment message is proving popular with voters, investors are concerned.
López Obrador’s key themes of social inequality, corruption, and attacks on the political establishment, which he characterises as the “mafia del poder”, have led to inevitable comparisons with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, a point that will undoubtedly raise eyebrows in the business community.
This fact, coupled with López Obrador’s known opposition to casinos, paints a less that promising panorama for the prospects for the gaming industry if he wins the presidency.
“It’s [just] a matter of boosting tourism, there is no need to allow casinos,” he stated back in 2005, responding to the proposal that expanding the casino industry would contribute to economic development and create jobs. He added that the decision not to legislate for casinos “instead of hurting us, benefits us”.
Meanwhile, candidates from the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and right-of-centre National Action Party (PAN) face an uphill battle, with voters fatigued by years of lacklustre growth, graft, and rising violence.
“If PAN wins, as things stand, the market will open up very quickly, if the PRI wins then things will likely carry on as they are now and the industry will remain very closed,” he explained.
“With Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left wing candidate, as he’s a populist, it could be that he supports the gaming industry or it could be that he does what Lula did in Brazil and takes steps towards cracking down on it. So with him it’s really up in the air.”