Legalized, regulated gambling is helping Colombia grow

Many countries around the world have already figured out the beauty in a very simple equation. Gamblers are going to going to gambler whether it’s legal or not. By legalizing the activity and being able to regulate it, governments can both capture an additional revenue stream and provide consumer protection they otherwise would not be able to offer. There’s no shortage of lawmakers who still haven’t been able to grasp the concept, but Colombian legislators had no problem putting the gaming wheels in motion a few years ago. Since then, gambling has become a small but important part of the country’s economy, bringing in new revenue and new jobs that are vital to any country’s autonomy and longevity. 

According to Alberto Carrasquilla, Colombia’s finance minister, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) picked up around $460 million last year, representing about 0.2% of the GDP. In addition, the gaming industry helped advance other state efforts, with around $170 million going to the health and science and technology sectors. He made his remarks during the Congreso LAFT America 2020 summit, an anti-money-laundering conference, adding that around 111,000 new jobs were created for the gambling industry in 2019, as well. Anytime a country can suddenly see an influx of that many new employees, it’s a sign of substantial progress. 

Some of those gains have, of course, been countered due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, and Colombia’s government has introduced aid to help the industry alleviate the pressure. He added that a bill approved this year has provided certain financial benefits, stating, “The gaming sector has been one of the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In the framework of the pandemic, [Legislative Decree 808] was implemented in the context of emergency 808, which focused on alleviating the pressures that were generated on gaming operators […]. The Government ordered relief to the fixed rate that they must pay for their operation, and the postponement was made for six months, as well as the possibility of reducing the number of gaming machines in operation.”

There is more recovery needed as the COVID-19 threat lingers and the market incentives are rolled out. However, Colombia continues to expand its gaming industry and, now that it appears as though the sports world is returning to normal, sports gambling revenue will go a long way toward aiding in the recovery. Carrasquilla understands that the government will have to face these challenges “in the short term,” but that it is capable of a long-term recovery without too much difficulty. 

The minister also pointed out the strides made in Colombia to ensure the legal gambling industry stays clean. He reiterated the fact that operators are also responsible for ensuring illicit activity stays away, and asserts, “In recent years, Colombia has achieved all international standards in the anti-money laundering area.” Perhaps other countries could take a few pointers from Colombia’s success.