Ecuador enacts new slot machine standards

The Ecuadorian Government has passed new slot machine regulations requiring all machines, which are permitted only in hotel-casinos, to be registered with the country’s Ministry of Tourism and to conform to newly stipulated technical standards.

The new rules, approved at the end of July, emerged from a series of recent consultations between government officials and Ecuador’s gambling industry following the enactment of a new gambling decree in January.

That decree signed by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa reiterated that slot machines could only be legally operated in registered casinos in four- or five-star hotels and clarified that licenses for gaming activities could only be awarded by Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR).

January’s Decree No. 815 also exclusively empowered MINTUR to further regulate and control licensed gaming activities, and promised that MINTUR would introduce more specific regulations governing gaming machines, including precise technical standards, that would be promulgated after consultation with existing operators.

Observers will note that the now-published machine standards bare some resemblance to those currently applicable in neighbouring Peru – a minimum payout rate of 85 percent, for example – although, unlike in Peru, there is no pending requirement to directly connect gaming machines to a central server controlled by the country’s gaming authority.

Ecuador’s rules also dictate that only gaming machines less than six years old will be permitted in the country, as opposed to Peruvian legislation which says that machines must have been manufactured or upgraded within the past two years.

According to the regulations, gaming operators will be obliged to register a full catalogue of their operational machines with MINTUR and ensure that MINTUR’s records are kept up-to-date by informing them within 30 days of any machines added or removed.

Before machines can be authorized by MINTUR, however, operators must be able to supply a certificate from an approved testing lab to ensure that their machines comply with the relevant technical standards.

The comprehensive regulations also specify the criteria that testing labs must themselves meet in order to become approved as recognized certification facilities in Ecuador, as well as establishing a licensing process for machine manufacturers and distributors in the country.

According to statistics compiled by Ecuadorean tax authorities, slot machines in the country’s licensed casinos generated revenues of over USD 30m last year. However, legitimate gaming operators have for many years complained of competition from underground gambling businesses.

Tourism Minister Verónica Sión said that the updated laws would assist the Ministry of Tourism in its efforts to clamp down on illegal operators, which it began alongside police authorities last year, as well as tackle issues related to problem gambling in the country.