Net opening 65 off-track betting and 65 bingo halls

MEXICO CITY — Televisa, Mexico’s largest net, is expanding operations into the lucrative world of bookmaking.

According to documents revealed late last week, Mexico’s Interior Ministry has granted Televisa unit Apuestas Internacionales permits to open 65 off-track betting and 65 bingo halls around Mexico. The permits allow the media empire to expand its already wide-ranging operations into one of Mexico’s most closely controlled, and lucrative, businesses.

In doing so, Televisa enters a marketplace dominated by promotions giant Corporacion Interamericano de Entretanamiento, which runs the Sports Book chain as well as various horse and auto tracks, and Caliente, owned by Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon, one of Mexico’s most controversial pols. Caliente operates 70 sports books throughout Mexico.

Notably, Televisa holds a minority interest in CIE, which could make the company its own competition. There are 116 sports books and 47 bingo halls currently operating in Mexico.

The just-released documents, dated May 25, give Televisa a 25-year concession to run the betting halls, which are strictly limited to sports and bingo- and keno-style games. Casino gambling such as blackjack is illegal in Mexico, although there is ongoing debate in Congress about legalizing it. Televisa also has the option to renew the permits for 15 more years.

Televisa has not revealed any specific plans about how it would run its gambling business, nor has it announced when any establishments might open. On Friday, however, Televisa told Reuters it was in negotiations with Spanish entertainment concern Cirsa to run OTB and bingo halls as a concession.

Under terms of the permit, between 1% and 2% of all bets made would go to the Mexican government, and the authorization to operate gambling centers is not transferable.

In addition to running the nation’s top broadcaster, Televisa owns or has interests in satellite and cable television, magazine publishing, radio, promotions, music publication, film production and distribution and other entertainment-related concerns.

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