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ARGENTINA | 07-10-2023 06:18

Insaurralde affair: Have the lords of gambling lost their provincial ‘croupier’?

Martín Insaurralde’s exit as Cabinet chief in Buenos Aires Province has also created a vacuum in the world of the unwritten rules of the gambling business.

The Yachtgate scandal protagonised by Martín Insaurralde continues to resound in the heart of provincial politics. The photos posted by the model Sofía Clerici in her Instagram account drove no end of charges against the now former Cabinet chief of Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof, along with any number of questions about the assets of the Kirchnerite leader.

But now the role which the Lomas de Zamora mayor on leave might play in the gambling in Buenos Aires Province is under investigation.

For 20 years Martín “croupier” Insaurralde has been the person undertaking the hard work of keeping the industry in harmony. But something broke down this year with some sector when Codere suffered the closure of its houses.

Insaurralde’s man Omar Galdurralde heads the Instituto de Lotería y Casinos, defined as  “independent, decentralised and dedicated to the exploitation and administration of games of chance within the territory of Buenos Aires Province.”

When a tender for a gaming licence is opened, the interested parties tend to repeat themselves: Tabanelli, Gabella, Roggio, Caruso, Mautone, De Achával, Martí, Benedicto, Angelici, Martínez Sampedro and Mathov, among others.

The “croupier” has been at the receiving-end of at least five lawsuits in federal courts requesting an investigation of his assets. The Marbella affair has exposed the lavish spending of the ex-mayor, hardly compatible with the salary of a public official.

But sector sources assure that Insaurralde’s extraordinary income is much better explained by his close relationship with the gambling and betting world.

A world managed by a handful of families for decades with nothing remotely resembling a grieta rift. A world which tends to be very generous with all politicians lending it a hand to continue its non-stop growth without proper controls.

When we talk about the territory of Buenos Aires Province, the South Side of the metropolis has a special place in the gaming business, precisely where the former Cabinet chief has his most fluid contacts for having been mayor of Lomas de Zamora.

 

A long relationship

The relationship between Marín Insaurralde and the gambling world stretches back decades to the close of the last century. Between 1998 and 2001 he worked as the secretary of Jorge Rossi at the Buenos Aires Province Lottery. Then he accompanied his political godfather when he came to head the National Lottery under the Eduardo Duhalde presidency.

During those years Insaurralde got to know all the national and provincial czars of gambling. But that relationship went beyond the logic of his work. It is widely affirmed that it was Héctor Mautone who introduced the former Lomas mayor to his ex-wife Jésica Cirio.

Insaurralde’s relationship with the lords of gambling was crystallised at the wedding party with Cirio where the guests included Mautone, Daniel Angelici, Cristóbal López, Federico De Achaval and Guillermo Gabella of the Boldt group. The shadow of those gambling links always followed him.

“Insaurralde went around Lomas bringing the world of clandestine gaming together. It is forgotten how when he pooled the take every Friday, he saw to it that frequently played numbers were not repeated,” was a strong accusation hurled by Jorge Castillo, the king of the La Salada black market, in mid-2016.

But Castillo did not stop there, calling Insaurralde the “bagman of clandestine gaming.”

Also publicly throwing Insaurralde’s gambling links in his face was San Isidro Mayor Gustavo Posse who at one point said that he would be unable to compete against Martín Insaurralde in a Frente para la Victoria primary because he lacked the same weight of sponsors.

“I’m not going to compete against the money of the gambling sector,” he insisted.

In April, 2022, with Insaurralde already installed as provincial Cabinet chief, the Buenos Aires Province government rehabilitated the use of debit cards while installing PosNet payment terminals in the gambling halls of casinos, bingos, racetracks and related betting agencies throughout provincial territory.

This resolution of the Instituto Provincial de Loterías y Casinos quashed a previous move in 2016 by the María Eugenia Vidal administration to prohibit the use of electronic means of payment as a form of heading off unrestrained spending. For that same reason ATMS are not allowed in gaming installations.

The Institute’s president Galdurralde is closely linked to Insaurralde. Galdurralde covers himself with “the prevention of tax evasion and money-laundering in gaming halls.” But the experts point out that it helps people to go on betting. That was Martín’s last gift to his friends in the gaming sector in the province.

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