hat have been the results in these few months Wplay.co has been in operation?
The first nine months have borne extraordinary results. In Colombia, a strong unlicensed market was in place, and our biggest challenge was attracting these anonymous players. “Do not risk your money by betting in illegal platforms. Play legal, play safe, play at Wplay.co” was a campaign we deployed in five months to propagate the pros of legal gambling. And the response has been impressive. Our registration record is 350.000. We expect to sustain our role as leaders of the transactional, financial and betting segments. In 2017, 5.000 thousand million Colombian pesos were infused into Health. In a meeting last year, the president of Coljuegos anticipated 8.000 thousand million pesos in the first operational year and factoring in all the approved operators. But seeing the impact our brand alone had, I assured him Wplay alone would supply that amount.
We started operating on July 22nd, and the World Soccer Cup in Russia will take place in our first year, and I expect we will surpass the 8.000 million pesos to be allocated into Health through Coljuegos. If we are capable of that, then we are doing things right.
The level of insertion Internet has had in Colombia is over 80%, according to data by the MinITC. We believe that 40% of the market, integrated by people who have never tried gambling before, now have reasons to do so. Over 20% of the calls we receive are from people who want us to teach them to play.
Regulation of online sports betting will create more users, and give the chance to those who are already fans to get involved in new ways. That is why we have signed agreements with those teams with the largest fan bases in the country. There are 37 million soccer fans in Colombia, and over 70% of these fans are represented by Wplay.co. Moreover, as entrepreneurs and Colombian citizens, we can relate with our Olympic athletes. We are becoming a sports powerhouse: more than 720 national athletes will take part in the upcoming Bolivarian Games. That is why we have signed an agreement with the Olympic Bolivarian Committee. We want to support people whose efforts are awarded. Sports is opening doors for Colombia to legal online operators.
Do you feel Coljuegos is taking a supportive stance in your struggle against illegal gambling?
Coljuegos takes this mission seriously, and that is why there are ten authorized online operators. Their fight against illegal gambling started by the time they granted us our first contract. Now, the technological tools the regulator applies to shut down an illegal website is a different story. We frequently encounter operational difficulties in the proceeding and authority of the police and the Ministry of ITC. I am also of the opinion that certain aspects of the legal framework prevent the development of the industry. However, we cannot argue there is a groundbreaking legal framework in place, regulating responsible gaming in Colombia.
Coljuegos has announced that 20 new approved operators will be incorporated in 2018. Do you think the sports betting demand will be excessive? How many operators can the market support in your opinion?
Coljuegos' aspirations are very high. We think the market will self-adjust. National laws allow us to co-organize operations jointly with other approved operators, there is room for alliances... The market will evolve naturally, as was the case in Europe.
Are you planning to expand? Many are looking at Perú, for instance.
Our willingness is strong. Wplay.co has indisputably become a success story other countries are trying to replicate, but there is still a long way to go in Colombia. We are pioneering legal gambling and the Gaming revolution in the country, and foresee to organize more than 2.500 events in the short term. The Soccer World Cup might even lead us to hold 2.300 o 2.400 open events. We hope to expand into new industry segments, such as poker. We have developed the "Acumulados W", which according to current legislation are deemed as jackpots, but in terms of regulations to permanent betting, they are considered progressive jackpots. And this innovation is part of our R&D strategy. Ours was the first site to be authorized by Coljuegos. Since it kicked off on July 22nd, the site has welcomed 350.000 registered users.