Illegal Gambling Machines Seized in Record Numbers by Colombia

Posted on: December 20, 2023, 03:27h. 

Last updated on: December 20, 2023, 11:31h.

In another blow to illegal gambling activities in the country, Colombian gaming regulator Coljuegos has carried out its “largest ever” operation, seizing a significant amount of equipment and property used in illegal gambling establishments across the country.

Coljuegos President Marco Emilio Hincapié participates in an interview
Coljuegos President Marco Emilio Hincapié participates in an interview. Colombia’s gaming regulator continues its crackdown on unlicensed gaming venues. (Image: Canal 1)

The operation focused on establishments in the communities of Atlántico, Magdalena, Cesar, and Guajira. In conjunction with local law enforcement agencies, Coljuegos seized 778 items, including slot machines, gambling devices, televisions, and technological equipment valued at approximately COP3 billion (US$756,000).

The crackdown on illegal gambling comes as Coljuegos seeks to strengthen its enforcement efforts in the country. It comes just days after the regulator announced that it would target illegal slots, which Coljuegos says, deprive the government of at least COP945 billion (US$238.14 million) in tax revenue.

Widespread Disregard for the Law

Coljuegos president Marco Emilio Hincapié said in a statement that the operation targeted two major illegal gambling venues, Azar Games and Atlantis Games, located in the city of Valledupar. They had evaded paying around COP50 billion (US$12.5 million) in gaming licensing fees annually since they opened. These resources, Hincapié emphasized, should have been allocated to support the country’s health care system.

The seizures were conducted at 21 sites across the four departments, and 14 individuals have already been prosecuted in connection with the illegal gambling operations. Six of these are awaiting a decision from a judge regarding their pretrial detention status. Additionally, authorities are pursuing the forfeiture of a warehouse in Valledupar, where illegal slot machines were manufactured.

Hincapié highlighted the significance of this operation, stating that it represents the largest seizure of illegal gambling equipment Coljuegos has conducted since its inception. He commended the efforts of Coljuegos staff and law enforcement partners in carrying out the operation. In addition, Hincapié emphasized the regulator’s commitment to safeguarding the interests of Colombian citizens and upholding the rule of law.

Colombian Regulated Gaming Rises

In 2023, Coljuegos achieved a significant milestone in the legal gaming industry by recording a 27.5% increase in revenue allocated to the health care sector. This translates into approximately US$200 million in revenue that will be used to support the Colombian health care system.

Casinos and bingo parlors, which generated US$17.3 million, were the primary drivers behind the growth. Lottery draws and related products, which contributed US$8.48 million, followed. The figures represent a substantial increase from the previous year when Coljuegos generated US$15.77 million for the health care sector.

This positive development highlights the online gaming industry’s vital role in supporting essential public services in Colombia. The tax revenue and contributions from the regulated gaming space fund various state-led agencies. Among these are state and local health funds and the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation. This ensures that the revenue from the online gaming industry will improve the quality of health care services available to Colombian citizens.