Famous for its versatile landscapes, aromatic coffee, and emblematic cuisine, Colombia is a unitary republic with a population of 51.5 million and an economy mainly driven by the agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors. Comprising 32 departments and the capital district of Bogotá, the country is home to a gambling industry that generates over $13 billion in bets annually.
Figures from a 2019 survey suggest local gamblers tend to favor chance-based games, lotteries, sports betting, raffles, and bingo, although casino table games are also huge in the country. All of these activities are legal under Colombian law. Many locals are starting to transition to online gambling as roughly 68% of Colombian gamblers place their wagers on the web.
Mobile gambling apps rank second in popularity, with 25% of Colombians using them to bet. As many as 31% of the locals say they play online casino games around two to three times per week. Online sports betting is also popular in the country, with 32% of online punters placing sports bets at least once a week.
The migration from landbased to online betting hardly comes as a surprise, given the fact Colombia was the first country in South America to legalize and adequately regulate remote gambling. The sector has been experiencing steady growth since licensing started back in 2017. In this article, SuperCasinoSites looks into the legal landscape of Colombia’s gambling sector and the laws that regulate it.
Laws That Govern Gambling in Colombia
Between 1810 and 1991, Colombian authorities tolerated gaming houses although such activities were not yet officially legal under local law. The government gave the thumbs-up to legal gambling in 2001 in an attempt to drive criminal elements away and curb corruption, which was rampant in the sector before the legalization.
Landbased Licensing Process, Taxes, and Fees
Gambling companies can legally operate in Colombia but only on condition they have obtained local licenses, or in this case, concession contracts. Unlike other jurisdictions where each type of gambling activity requires the issuance of a separate permit, Colombia has adopted a single-license framework. This approach spares operators from going through the hassles of applying for individual permits for each gaming category.
2Concession Contracts Validity
There is no restriction on the number of concession contracts granted to brick-and-mortar gambling operations. Under the provisions of the General Gambling Act, each concession contract given to a third-party operator has a validity of three to five years. Concessions for horse race betting generally have a validity of up to ten years.
Landbased applicants must provide Coljuegos with documentation to prove they legally possess the necessary equipment to operate the games. They must also comply with the minimum and maximum number of gaming machines or tables allowed per commercial premise.
Each applicant must provide proof it has the financial capacity to cover the payment of prizes as well as the wages and legal benefits of its employees. For this purpose, operators must work with insurance companies or banks based in Colombia. Operators who seek approval for landbased concessions do not have to pay any fees upon application. However, they must meet various equity and debt requirements.
As for annual fees, or royalties as is the case in Columbia, they are applicable to both regional and national gambling products. They are two types, starting with the variable rates that apply to both online and brick-and-mortar games. The variable rates differ based on the offered gambling product and the number of municipality inhabitants on a regional level.
Fixed rates are also in place, amounting to 811 times the legal minimum monthly wage (LMMW) for each year of operation. To give you more context, LMMW represents a national index amended at the start of each year via a government decree. For reference, the LMMW stood at COL$877,803 in 2019.
Online Gambling Regulations in Colombia
As previously mentioned, Colombia was the first country in Latin America to introduce full-fledged online gambling regulations and as such, has become somewhat of a role model in the region. Interactive gambling officially became legal after the Colombian legislature modified Law № 643/2001 with Article 93 of Law № 1753/2015 (Ley 1753/2015).
Colombian law defines online games as those conducted via interactive channels such as websites, mobile applications, and downloadable clients. The legislation does not limit the number of available licenses, with their duration again ranging from three to five years.
Social Responsibility Policies and Advertising
Colombian law strictly prohibits the provision of gambling services to underage individuals or people who suffer from mental health disorders. For reference, the age of majority in Colombia is 18 years old. Coljuegos works jointly with its licensees to address the challenge of problem gambling among local consumers.
Colombia is a popular tourist destination, boasting numerous luxury hotels, picturesque landscapes, and last but not least, dozens of gaming facilities. All this renders it an attractive spot for gambling mavens worldwide. It was the first state in Latin America to introduce a full-fledged gambling regulatory framework, serving as a role model for neighboring countries looking to regulate their eGaming industries.
Colombian gamblers have access to a full range of gambling products, accessible on landbased premises or via desktop and mobile platforms. The local regulator Coljuegos reported a staggering 148% growth in online gambling revenue for the first half of 2021 as the sector generated the record $2.1 billion. Colombia is set to become a major gambling hub in the region if these positive trends continue to manifest.