Colombia announces plans to block more than 300 online casino sites

  • Major global online casino websites included in huge blocking spree
  • The country’s regulated gambling market is struggling for license sales

When you think of Colombian law enforcement, you may well envisage cops in riot gear battering their way through the favelas and shooting on sight in their quest to crackdown on guns and rampant violence. However, you may not immediately envisage the countries efforts to crackdown on online crime.

That being said, Colombia’s gambling regulator, Coljuegos has announced plans to block 325 casino gambling websites from being used in the country, in order to boost its domestic regulated gambling market.

Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos' government is cracking down on 325 online gambling sites, including William Hill and Bet365
Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos’ government is cracking down on 325 online gambling sites, including William Hill and Bet365

The list of sites that are regularly used in Columbia, despite not having gambling licenses to operate in the country, includes some pretty high profile, and major online gambling destinations such as Bet365, William Hill, PokerStars and Unibet.

The Colombian government have been irked by the operators of these sites flouting new gambling laws which came into place in the South American country last year, obliging gambling companies to pay tax on all revenue as well as a significant licensing fee that runs to a six-figure sum.

Colombia struggling to sell licenses

The Colombian government has enforced highly regulated gambling in its country, but with an initial 19% value added tax on player deposits, there was little interest from major global gambling websites in obtaining licenses due to the prohibitive cost of doing so. The tax was eventually scrapped but, despite the move, the demand for licenses remained low, with few companies opting to pay the fee.

The country’s government is largely concerned over lost revenue from unauthorized gambling, although the efficacy of domain-blocking is highly questionable, and has been easily bypassed in other countries. As well as the option of Colombian gamers using software that can help them to bypass the block, gaming companies can also simply direct Colombian visitors to mirror websites.

Colombia cracks down on unauthorised gaming

Colombia’s crackdown hasn’t solely been confined to the world of online casinos, either – the country has also been highly pro-active in cutting out illegal real-world gambling, increasing its seizures of equipment by 26% last year.

As if that wasn’t enough, the government also stung players by imposing 16% VAT on all deposits. That provision has since been relaxed, but there’s still the 15% gaming revenue tax that has understandably had operators scurrying offshore in their droves.

The South American country has only had online gambling legislation in place since October last year, although this still puts it ahead of many of its neighbors on the continent. While the government is determined to crack down on unauthorised gambling, it remains to be seen whether or not its policies will be effective, as similar moves have often been easy to exploit in other countries.

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