Colombia Licenses First-Ever Regulated Online Gambling Company in South America, Blacklists 325 Others

Posted on: June 30, 2017, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: June 30, 2017, 05:17h.

Colombia’s new online gambling regime began ordering ISPs to block unregulated operators today (Friday), just 24-hours after it issued its first license, the first online gambling license ever awarded in Latin America.   

Colombia’s Coljuegos issues first ever online gambling license
Juan Perez Hilgado, president of Coljuegos, said that the fight against unregulated gambling sites will be a difficult task. The regulator began the ISP blocking of 325 sites on Friday. (Image: La Republica)

On Thursday, a subsidiary of Aquila Global Group, a slots operator based in Medellin, became the first regulated online gambling brand of the new jurisdiction, and the continent.

On Friday, its blacklist came into force, on it the names of some 325 websites banned by the government. Among them are global brands, like William Hill, PokerStars, Betfair, Paddy Power, and Ladbrokes.

“With this initiative we seek greater resources for the health of Colombians, expanding the portfolio of games through innovative tools and tuning with the trend towards greater use of new technologies in the world,” said Juan Perez Hidalgo, president of Coljuegos, the Colombian gaming regulator.

“We are aware that the fight against illegality is not an easy task and less so with regard to technological platforms,” he added. “That is why we are working in an articulated way with the National Police and the Ministry of Defense.”

$8 Billion Market

Colombia passed its Egaming Act last October. The new regulations impose a 15 percent levy on gross gaming revenue where the expected return to the player is equal or greater than 83 percent. Operators must also pay a fixed annual licensing fee of roughly $200,000.

Coljuegos’ head of new business Liliana Viveros said recently the regulator had received over 60 inquiries from potential licensees and it expected seven online licensees to have launched by the end of 2017. Analysts have predicted the market could be worth as much as $8 billion in its first year.

Aquila Global said in an official statement this week that it plans to invest $4.9 million in its new online operation over the next three years, with the goal of signing up one million customers in that time frame. It also said it expects to create 3,000 jobs.

Challenges for the Sector

Aquila’s numbers may prove to be optimistic. According to research, 60 percent of the country’s 50 million population are bettors, but the fledgling industry will face several challenges.

Colombia is very much a cash-based society and there is a general distrust of internet based transactions. Meanwhile, there are currently few viable online payment alternatives for the 80 percent of citizens who don’t own credit cards.

Those online payment gateways that do exist can charge up to ten percent for transactions.