Colombia is located in the north-west corner of South America. It borders Venezuela to the north-east, Brazil to the south-east, Ecuador and Peru to the south-west and Panama to the north-west. It also borders the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
For a long time, Colombia as a country has undergone a total period of transition. During such turbulent times, it is only natural that not all matters will be addressed with equal attention and a timely manner. In fact, it was only by the end of 2015 that the Colombia government was finally able to offer resolution to this question.
The initial prompt that pointed out to the need for proper legislature was that operators were being punished for providing services without a license, even though an actual licensing procedure was far from defined.
The first operator to openly state this issue was GTECH – back in July 2015, they announced that plans to release an online service following their mobile gambling app by 2016, and would like to apply for a license.
In response, the Colombian government (the Ministry of Local Government) partnered with the regulatory body for this industry – EICE Coljuegos. By the end of the year 2015, they had even drafted a whole set of regulations in order to set matters straight. These regulations contained standards in terms of games, technologies and the likes that each operator needs to adhere to, as part of the process towards qualifying for a license.
What is more, the proposed draft additionally included recommendations for all permitted gambling forms, and even resolved the specific tax rate policy for the industry.
By October 2016, legislators in cooperation with Coljuegos passed the eGaming Act. Under its lawful power, operators have since been able to provide interactive gaming, betting and poker services to members of the Colombian player pool.
The tax rate was set at 15% on gross wins for all operators of gambling products, and a 1% additional tax paid to the regulatory body. Exempt from this charge...
...are those operators that provide games of skill instead of the usual games of luck and chance. Thus, daily fantasy football platforms enjoyed licensed operations free of tax fees.
Since then, the Colombian government, and Coljuegos all the more, have mainly focused on two things. For one, the licensing body is working tirelessly to attract, review and license applications from all kinds of operators – onshore and offshore, in order to provide all the more variety to their player pool. With the first operator, Wplay.co licensed in mid-2017, and many more obtaining a 5 year interactive gambling license since then, it is safe to assume that the Colombia gambling industry is going nowhere but forward.
On the other hand, it has equally focused on blocking and eliminating rogue operators from offering their products to the player pool. Such platforms harm the industry, its economic sustainability and the overall country, especially since revenues from recently imposed interactive gaming taxes have been used to aid health, education and other country funds.
The process of setting up proper licensing regulations has been key to a successful gambling industry in Colombia. Their main regulatory body is, as mentioned above, Coljuegos.
It has been responsible for regulating the existing land-based gambling market, starting from the long-lasting Colombia Baloto lottery, through casinos and sports betting shops (mainly horse and dog racing).
More recently, it was also given charge to regulate the new interactive gambling market. Since the defining eGaming Act 2016, interested operators have been able to apply for a license, get properly reviewed and authorized to provide their services. While there is no information on the application fee, it has been made public that unlawful operators are easily subject to 6-8 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to COP193m (about €10.9m), making regulated operations all the more appealing.
For as long as the unregulated period persisted, Colombian players were left to fend for themselves – they were not under anyone’s protection. However, this is only understandable, considering that they were solely able to gamble at unlicensed platforms which had no legal obligation towards their player pool.
Nevertheless, since proper regulation has been introduced, players are advised to address their municipal or government facilities, or the regulatory body Coljuegos directly, and seek justice for any issue regarding a licensed or unlicensed operator. Regarding the latter, unlicensed operators have also received different treatment since the new regulations –by September 2018, 1,805 domains have been included on their blacklist, and IP blocks are readily distributed.
On a final note, players still need to comply with some regulations as well, such as the legal gambling age of 18.
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