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Sports betting is legal in Puerto Rico
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In June and July 2019, both the Senate and House of Representatives of Puerto Rico approved a bill that allows both land-based and online betting on sports, esports and fantasy sports.
House Resolution 2038 (HR 2038) also stipulates that betting on amateur sports will remain illegal in the territory.
As a US territory, Puerto Rico was also affected by the US Supreme Court’s landmark sports betting decision in 2018. We’ll get into more detail on that in a second.
In this guide to legal sports betting in Puerto Rico we’ll explain:
We’ll also touch on the daily fantasy sports situation and Puerto Rico’s history of gambling laws. By the end of this guide you’ll be an expert on how to bet on sports in Puerto Rico.
In May of 2018 the US Supreme Court struck down a law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that had essentially banned sports betting in the US since 1992.
With PASPA out of the way, the door was opened for legal sports betting and it wasn’t only US states that were affected. The SCOTUS decision also allowed the US territory of Puerto Rico to decide whether or not to legalize sports betting.
Immediately after the decision, Puerto Rican Senator José Nadal Powers put forward Senate Resolution 756 to start exploring the opportunity that legal sports betting presents.
In November of 2018 Representative Néstor Alonso Vega presented two pieces of legislation aimed at legalization. Vega has said that allowing people in Puerto Rico to bet on sports in-person and online via websites and apps would generate $20 million per year in tax revenue.
With an extensive legal betting industry including land-based casinos, Puerto Rico definitely has the infrastructure to start offering legal sports betting right away if these bills become law.
Here are the main points from Puerto Rico’s two new sports betting bills:
Gambling is already common in Puerto Rico and there are tons of ways to do it legally.
There are currently 13 casinos, a national lottery, horse racing tracks and lots of other options.
Thanks to PASPA, sports betting was never included in PR’s gambling offering. Now that the ban has been lifted, Puerto Rico is taking action to make up for lost time.
As we mentioned before, there are two bills tabled for 2019 that would legalize and regulate online sports betting, similarly to what the country did in the past for horse racing, casino games and cockfighting.
The two bills were introduced in early November of 2018 by Rep. Nestor Alonso Vega. One of the most interesting aspects of the proposed legislation is how the money will be divided by in the country.
The bills propose that 20% of sports betting income would go towards the Puerto Rican government’s retirement plan, with the other 80% going towards the casinos that actually host the sports betting services.
One big factor is that the PR government recently allowed slot machines outside of casinos. The country’s casino industry was already struggling and this change hurts it even more.
Sports Betting is also being promoted as a way to revitalize casino profits and compete with the new slot machines.
If Vega’s bills were approved, they would legalize online and mobile sports betting as well. However, for people in Puerto Rico to legally do so, they would have to register in person at the casino.
Puerto Rico undoubtedly has a different culture compared to the states, and some of that is shown in their history of sports betting.
Cockfighting is one of the most obvious examples of the cultural differences between Puerto Rico and the United States. There is a long history of cockfighting in Puerto Rico, and the sport was legal for decades before it was made illegal in 1898.
It was finally legalized again in 1933 and remains legal to this day. However, it could soon become illegal if President Donald Trump signs an impending US Farm Bill.
Although not as long-standing as cockfighting in the country, there has been less turmoil for horse racing. Once it was legalized in 1910, horse racing has enjoyed steady growth throughout Puerto Rico.
The lottery in Puerto Rico has been around in one form or another for over 200 years, since Spanish settlement. However, it wasn’t until 1947 that it was officially formalized and legalized.
Thanks to the “Random Games Law” passed in 1948, a number of casinos were opened, mainly in San Juan. Legalization of charitable games and bingo soon followed.
Unfortunately for residents in Puerto Rico at the moment, there are no legal online sports betting options.
As with many American states, there aren’t any laws that prohibit residents from betting on offshore online sports betting platforms. However, with no legal way to get your money back should you lose it, or not receive a payout, it is highly recommended that you stay away from these websites.
The good news is that all signs indicate there will be legal Puerto Rico online sportsbooks available soon. When that happens, keep an eye out for big online sports betting brands like these to start accepting wagers from Puerto Ricans:
It would make a lot of sense for the SugarHouse Sportsbook mto make its way down the coast to Puerto Rico. That’s partly because the Philadelphia-based sportsbook recently made their way up the coast to New Jersey following that state’s legalization on sports betting.
SugarHouse is already branching out to other US states so it’s entirely possible it could become one of the best online sports betting sites in PR.
If you’re a poker player and use PokerStars.net, you might want to keep an eye on its sister site Betstars.
Betstars are now up and running in New Jersey and it’s already looking for newly emerging legal markets like Puerto Rico to start accepting bets.
A long-time player in the Las Vegas sports betting world, MGM has started offering its online betting app BetMGM outside of Nevada. That started with New Jersey in 2018.
Currently, there are no sports of any kind to bet on legally in Puerto Rico. However, when laws are put into place that allows online sports betting, residents of the country will be able to bet on sports of all kinds from all over the world.
The exact sports options will depend on the Puerto Rico online sportsbook you’re using but the list will include all major North American pro sports like the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB plus tons of other leagues and teams from around the world.
Since Puerto Rico is an American territory, it does take on some of the nation’s most popular sports as their own. Baseball likely ranks at the top of the list, with over 100 Puerto Ricans players currently in the MLB.
Boxing and basketball get a lot of attention in Puerto Rico and soccer is another sport that’s on the rise as the national team has climbed the ranks.
With MLB presenting sports bettors with the most volume, you can expect this to be the league with the most bets place in Puerto Rico once sports betting is legalized.
When online sports betting does arrive, signing up to an online sports betting site in Puerto Rico will be really easy.
Follow the exact instructions when you sign up but expect it to look very similar to this:
While Puerto Rico is showing progressiveness on the sports betting front, the daily fantasy sports betting industry remains largely unregulated.
The two biggest DFS sites, DraftKings and FanDuel, are both not available in Puerto Rico. While fantasy sports betting isn’t directly outlawed, there are no safe, regulated platforms in which to participate in daily fantasy sports for real money.
For now, Puerto Ricans should stay away from offshore fantasy sports websites, and look for these options when they become available.
The future of sports betting in Puerto Rico is incredibly bright, and the reality is that it might not be long until sports betting is legalized and regulated in the country.
Puerto Rico has a history of doing the exact same thing with other forms of gambling, which bodes especially well for the betting on sports in PR.
If we are going to throw a wrench into the equation, it should be noted that there are still doubters about the benefits of sports betting in the country. Miguel Vega, a local casino developer, believes the market is saturated and the gains from sports betting won’t be as big as some proponents say.
However, since the casinos will be operating physical sportsbooks and online betting sites and apps, they will be the ones to benefit from the eventual legalization.
Support for legalization might not be unanimous in Puerto Rico, but the reality is that there isn’t much pushback compared to most US states.
The financial opportunity is significant, especially for a country that recently went through a natural disaster with Hurricane Maria.
We expect legal sports betting to arrive as early as late 2019 or in 2020 and we’ll be monitoring the situation and posting major developments here as they happen.
Refer to our state by state guides to find out if sports betting is legal in other parts of the US.
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.More info on Richard Janvrin
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