Many Latin American countries went through quite some changes in relation to gambling regulations as of late and Colombia is no exception. Nowadays, most forms of gambling are entirely legal in the country. This includes land-based casinos and online casinos. In 1991, it was declared in the Colombian Constitution that all gambling activities are a monopoly of the state and that all profits can solely be used for social purposes. Later on in the Gambling Act of 2001, it was specified that this specifically includes physical casinos, bingo, sports betting, and dog races, as well as the national lottery.
Many saw this legislation as outdated, especially with the rising popularity of online casinos which weren’t really addressed. The government pushed the Colombia Gambling Authority (Coljuegos) to develop a strategy to resolve this issue. In late 2015, they came up with the first draft of regulations for online casino games, technologies, and a process towards an official online gambling license that is valid within the country. In October 2016, the eGaming Act was passed, which made it possible for operators to apply for an official license to offer games of chance online. Right now, at the time of writing, there is not much information available about the exact licensing process – but it is open for local and offshore applicants.
Before the eGaming Act was introduced in 2016, only land-based casinos were regulated properly by Coljuegos. The main focus was on upholding the state monopoly and providing players with reliable brick-and-mortar casinos. Foreign-based online casinos were still open to Columbian players – but since they are not under the jurisdiction of Colombia, fair gaming and player protection could not be guaranteed. All of that changed in 2016 when the first local online casinos were licensed and players finally had an alternative to international gambling sites.
The main focus of the Colombia Gambling Authority is to create a legal framework that protects players and makes sure that all licensees adhere to their obligations concerning fair gaming and responsible gambling. It is a bit unclear how this is achieved but Coljuegos issued a statement that any breach of the license agreement can lead to fines of up to an equivalent of roughly €10 million. Furthermore, if an individual is operating an unlawful online casino, a prison sentence of up to eight years can be imposed.
In 2018, Coljuegos started to fight foreign-based online casinos that illegally provided their services in the country to protect local players and strengthen the local online gambling market. Since then, nearly 2,000 foreign casino domains were banned and IP-blocked. Moreover, the Colombia Gambling Authority directly assists players that have been the victim of any unfair treatment by licensed and unlicensed online casino operators. This leads to high operating and security standards at Colombian online casinos, as they want to avoid high fines or the loss of their gambling license at all costs. However, compared to established international online casinos, they still have a long way to go to get to the same level.