Chileans, much like Italians, have an “Undying Love” for poker and “Excel” at finding various “Places and Opportunities” to “play the game.” Unlike in Italy, where poker is legal but with limited options, players in Chile have access to unlimited poker resources, although it is totally “Illegal.” The only advantage over Italians is that the Chilean government does not take any legal action against foreign and illegal poker game providers. Therefore, Chileans can immerse their time into poker rooms, partake in various poker tournaments in the country, and enjoy their winnings with minimal interruptions!
Interesting Gambling History
The passion Chileans express for poker arises from the rich background and history of gambling in the country. Chilean gambling story starts with establishing the country’s first gambling den, the “Vina del Mar Casino,” back in 1852. However, the establishment became operational in 1930 during the eve of the New Year, making the year much more symbolic! However, General Pinochet instituted bans on gambling, and the only sport given leeway was horse racing between 1960 and 1990.
However, with over 18 million people, the demise of military dictatorship saw the country pick up the pieces and rise once again in the gambling world and industry. in 2004, the country put together the “the Gambling Law of 2004.” In 2013, Casino Termas de Chillán SA set forth a request to the Resolution Board of the Superintendence of Casinos towards accepting and licensing casinos for operations in the country.
Following the request, 25 casinos received operating licenses after completing the Operational Permit Granting Process in 2014. But, according to the Superintendent of Casinos de Juego (SCJ), the country has only 24 legalized casinos (Law No. 19.995).
More requests for further license grants have hit the authorities’ tables, and the number of casinos will double if successful. However, the government and gambling governing bodies are taking the step a little slower this time to avoid another fiasco like that witnessed years ago. One company, Thunderbird, had acquired six operational casino licenses. When the government requested the casino to return and give up five, the company sued the government, but Thunderbird lost the legal battle!
Presence of Online Poker
Three years ago, one government officials in the Chilean government Joaquin Morales indicated he was looking into online poker regulations. He hoped to find inspiration from what countries such as Italy have put to govern the game of skill. Since then, the government has put in place the “Polla Chilena,” giving the government a legal monopoly over sports betting and lotteries both online on casinoonlineChile and offline. However, the Polla Chilena cannot satisfy the overgrowing popularity of poker in the country. Citizens have adapted to playing online illegally, which remains a “Technicality” in most instances as no prosecutions or arrests occur.
Morales indicates that the legality of online poker in the country falls in a “Grey Area.” He says that the game is illegal if sourced from foreign suppliers but legal if issued out by Polla Chilena. However, the source of online poker does not matter in the country, as the law terming online poker as illegal is not enforced! The factor is visible from the influx of gambling providers from all over the world.
Poker Popularity in the Country
Poker represents one of the most competitive sports in the country. Therefore, major venues and gambling establishments thrive by throwing poker tournaments. One such is the Sun Monticello’s poker tournament back in April of 2020. The tournament attracted CHP700000 buy-in, which is about $900. Plus, the Enjoy Vina del Mar has had the opportunity to host the Latin American Poker Tour several times over the years.
Some of the popular poker players of all time come from Chile. Notable names include Nicolas Fierro, who leads the Hendon Money List with total earnings of $1.788 million. He bagged the No-Limit Hold’em title in Uruguay back in 2015, held in Punta del Este. The title remains the “largest live competition” he has ever cashed in till now! His attempt at the WSOP event in 2011 saw him taking 34th place out of the possible 6865 participants! In total, this poker genius has taken home over $12.4 million during his career!
Nick Yunis is another Chilean citizen enjoying the fruits of playing poker in Chile! His earnings are a little lower compared to Fierro at $1.520 million. But, he did take the World Poker Tour title back in 2015 and bagged more winnings at the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic. Don’t forget that he aalso cashed in the 2014 WSOP poker event!
Poker popularity soared even higher after Arturo Vidal, a popular Chilean soccer/football player, bagged the EPT Barcelona back in 2019. The midfielder took the fifth position and scooped the high roller win amounting to $134,460!
Future of Poker in Chile
Poker in Chile is bound to grow beyond individual expectations. However, due to lack of proper regulation, the government risks the citizens being exploited especially in regards to online poker. We hope to see a change in regulations in the future, which will put all gamblers on an even footing!