Colombia: A mature market facing the challenge of regulating online gambling advertising without affecting business

During the latest edition of SBC Summit Latinoamérica, which took place in early November in Miami, Yogonet held an exclusive interview with two important players in the Colombian online gambling market: Evert Montero Cárdenas, President of Fecoljuegos (the association that groups the main national gambling operators), and Julio César Tamayo Betancur, President of WPlay, one of the most important gambling sites in the country.

Both noted that the new Colombian Government decided to regulate advertising due to a certain saturation that was reached because not all the actors of the market complied with responsible self-regulation.

Montero Cárdenas, head of Fecoljuegos, explained: “A regulation has just been issued to regulate the matter of gambling advertising, and it is an issue that has led us to reflect a lot on what is happening with advertising in Colombia, on how far it can be implemented or how a regulation on this matter can be implemented, and how it can affect us.”

We are working to adapt to these new proposals, with a government change, where we have to adapt to its way of seeing things and considering the sector. And part of this vision, I believe, is going to end up influencing the market: sometimes, the economic situations bring many difficulties, but they are also a land of opportunities and we are trying to see how to capitalize on these opportunities, to have a much more sustainable sector over time,” added the representative of most of the operators that today operate in Colombian territory.

When asked whether he considered it necessary to educate and provide more information to the new government to understand whether the new measures derive from a lack of knowledge of the market or a political decision, Montero Cárdenas said: “I believe that there is part of both. This is an activity that, at least until very recently, is unknown by the owner of the monopoly itself, which is the government.”

“Such a monopoly simply existed, but no thought had been given to it or how far it went, what it had to offer and how it could be further leveraged, or how it could be strengthened. It was often not even clear how important it was in the economy and the generation of resources. Today, for example, the latest data from the DANE, the National Administrative Department of Statistics, highlight that this sector was the one that drove the country’s GDP: the entertainment sector was fundamental, and at the forefront of the entertainment sector is online gambling,” he added.

For his part, Julio César Tamayo Betancur, President of Wplay, explained exclusively to Yogonet that Colombia is “six and a half years into the regulation and legal operation of online gambling. It was in 2017 that the first operator started, in May or June, so we have already been in this reality for more than six years. Currently, I estimate that the market is growing at a little more than 30% annually, and has 16 competitors, although the market has been practically focused on four operators. We have a very strong market concentrated in these four operators, with a very strong main operator at a technological level”, he noted.

Regarding the advertising issue, Tamayo Betancur said that “the new regulations on advertising will impose technological developments on us as a market, and force us to generate proposals in technology to control risky players. This is a very important issue for the industry at the government level, as there have been intentions of the new authorities to move forward on issues that, in his opinion, were delayed in the industry. The most important one is the regulation of advertising, which was an issue that had been under discussion in Colombia for the last two years. We had been working jointly with the associations on a self-control code that was submitted to the Government. But the Government decided to regulate the issue instead of allowing the bookmakers to self-regulate.”

“The market is reaching its peak of user registration, and the only thing left to do is to incorporate young people who are coming of age. I believe that someone who likes sports and sports betting already participates… and if they have not bet on any of the platforms, it is because they have decided never to bet.”

“The level of advertising in sports, and more specifically in Colombian soccer, is very large. WPlay sponsored, for example, 19 teams in Colombia, today it has 12 teams among its sponsorships and there is a competitor that sponsors the League. We are seeing levels of advertising concentration in sports that speak of a very clear maturity of the market, and I think we have already consolidated it: the development will be at other market levels,” he added.

The best thing that would have happened would have been for all operators and associations to self-regulate because we participated in a year-and-a-half-long discussion at work tables, and we did not achieve this objective. The model had a disadvantage: it did not oblige those who entered the market to follow these guidelines, and we had many doubts because I could leave aside advertising assets in pursuit of this commitment, but those who entered the market were under no obligation to do so,” according to Tamayo Betancur.

I like the path of self-regulation very much for the human aspect because it allows one to work on self-regulation and commit oneself to what one believes in. I want this in my life, I want it in my organization and I believe that it is also convenient for the sector: we have to give that social message”, concluded the businessman, assuring that “a very serious document was prepared, led by Coljuegos, on regulation. But the new government has another perspective, and I understand that Colombia is within the regulatory times. Colombia issued its regulation in 2016, the first operation opened in 2017 and today we reached an advertising saturation cap. The truth is that this large-scale advertising saturation enabled the way for the new Government to make a decision and regulate this aspect of our business.”