International edition
September 21, 2021

Exclusive interview with Coljuegos' President, Juan B. Pérez Hidalgo

"Colombia became an international benchmark in innovation, diversification and regulation"

Juan B. Pérez Hidalgo: "This year we launched a great Responsible Gaming Strategy that included the signing of a great Pact for Responsible Gaming, which was joined by operators who attended the conference, and it keeps growing."
Colombia | 04/05/2019

The host regulator at FADJA remarks that players' engagement stems from one of the highest rates of return to players (89% in 2018). He told Yogonet that during the IMF's recent visit to Colombia, the gambling sector received "very good comments" for its ability to comply with all the standards associated with money laundering prevention. As for cybersecurity, Coljuegos has continuous monitoring and receives complaints from different channels to advance in the blocking of illegal webpages.

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oljuegos will be the host regulator at FADJA 2019 on April 10 and 11, at Corferias expo center in Bogotá. The entity’s President, Juan B. Pérez Hidalgo, talked to Yogonet about the local industry, which is in the spotlight since online gaming regulation was introduced in 2017 and became a model for other Latin American markets that could follow suit.

“Coljuegos finds it essential to carry out this type of meeting that brings together the industry around growth opportunities and academic debates that result in the consolidation of a sector that contributes to the health of Colombians. We hope that more people can find in this conference a gambling sector that has evolved to be introduced in the digital economy, and as a country stands as an international reference,” he said.

Last year gaming revenue regulated by Coljuegos amounted to $ 574 billion (USD 183.680.000), which is 9.8% more than in 2017 and represents the highest income figure since the creation of this entity in 2012. Also, online gaming regulation allowed Colombia to consolidate as a leader in that area in Latin America, which, in addition, represented a collection for operational rights in the amount of $ 37,912 million (USD 12.131.840), as reported by Pérez Hidalgo. The current 17 authorized portals have already registered 2,122,249 player accounts.

“At the end of 2018, the gambling industry in Colombia became an international benchmark in terms of innovation, diversification of its portfolio and, of course, regulation. From Coljuegos we have achieved very important advances for the growth of a sector that generates quality jobs, contributes to economic growth and to the financing of the Colombians' health,” he remarked.

In 2019, Coljuegos will focus on three strategic aims: a greater collection of operational rights for games of chance, which mean resources for the health of Colombians; fight against the illegality and institutional strengthening of Coljuegos. “We will continue touring the territory to work hand in hand with the local authorities in the consolidation of this sector, adapting as an industry to new technologies and maintaining a permanent and constructive dialogue with operators and unions,” he adds.

However, the president of Asojuegos union, in a recent meeting shared with Pérez Hidalgo, described specific concerns about the current situation of the companies, such as chance sales that do not cover operations, need for diversification to cover profits, and pointed out as a factor the requirement of minimum profitability above the operation sales.

“We must explain that the minimum profitability is something determined by the Law. The Technical Secretariat of the National Council of the Games of Chance has informed Coljuegos, who is analyzing the proposal made by Asojuegos and has been conducting an analysis of the financial state of the operators, through the information they must report,” he replied on that matter.

How would you assess the current relationship between the financial sector and the gambling industry in the country?

We have a cordial relationship with the financial sector. We have participated in the most recent editions of the Banking Convention where we talked with the presidents of the main banks of Colombia to tell them about all the transparency schemes and information systems applied by the gambling industry. We have also led conversation tables with Compliance delegates that have allowed us to bring about greater trust between the parties.

During the IMF's recent visit to Colombia, the gambling sector received very good comments from the mission for its ability to comply with all the standards associated with money laundering prevention. Of course, we keep working on this relationship with the financial sector because there are still enormous challenges.

Given the ongoing development of online gaming, what resources are allocated to cybersecurity, and how do you plan to approach it in the future?

We have a permanent dialogue with the Cybersecurity Office of the National Police, and operators authorized by Coljuegos. We have built a relationship of trust that has allowed us to work driving actions that contribute in this sense and to overcome difficulties in terms of cyber attacks. We have continuous monitoring and we receive complaints from different channels to advance in the blocking of illegal webpages.

According to a recent study released by Fecoljuegos union, 68% of opinion leaders agree that a comprehensive public policy is urgently needed for the sector, and 40% said that there is a lack of action to make companies in the sector sustainable and promote a responsible gaming culture. To what would you attribute these answers, and what specific points would you propose in that regard?

These are two needs that we share and in which we are working as a priority. This year we launched a great Responsible Gaming Strategy that included the signing of a great Pact for Responsible Gaming, which was joined by operators who attended the conference, and it keeps growing. This strategy includes pedagogical actions to promote responsible gaming programs in establishments and in betting portals. Coljuegos has been promoting a public policy for the sector through collective construction with all the players in the industry. We want it to be a comprehensive policy that allows the growth of this industry and that is translated into more resources for the health of Colombians.

In terms of regulation in general and online gambling in particular, do you think Colombia is today a mature model for other jurisdictions in the region with emerging markets, such as Brazil, Argentina and Peru? What concepts could be exported?

To speak of maturity in the market must correspond to the course of several years after the regulations came into force, and in Colombia we have barely had two years in which we must recognize we have had very successful results. In 2018 these games reached a historic result, after 19 months of having entered the first operator in the Colombian market, they topped $ 37 billion collected for the operational rights payment. Colombians have 17 authorized portals, as of February 2019 there are already 2,122,249 registered player accounts and awards have been delivered for over $ 1.6 billion and bets have been made in over $ 1.8 billion. This is the result of the credibility that the industry has gained over time, as it has been a gaming vertical that has grown considerably and in 2018, of the 17 current operators, the operation of 10 pages was approved.

Perhaps one of the greatest interests of increasing acceptance and Colombian players' interest for this entertainment option is that these games have one of the highest rates of return to players (in the case of Colombia it must be at least 83% of sales), which for 2018 was 89%. If the player registers' behavior is analyzed, the greatest variation of new accounts, from one month to another, was presented in June 2018, when the Russian Soccer World Cup was held, reaching 1,155,780 for that month, and growth of 258,381 registrations (May to June 2018).

So this positive behavior of online games is important to be understood from the achievements that have been generated through the work articulated between Coljuegos and the entrepreneurs of gaming. Although Colombia was the first country in the Americas to regulate these games, innovation in different platforms does not slow down and it's consolidated as an important alternative for entertainment.

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