Colombian Gambling, Coljuegos new president and match-fixing prevention efforts

Posted on November 25, 2020

Two major pieces of gambling news have come out of Colombia this week. Coljuegos President Juan Pérez Hidalgo, the man responsible for the legalising and regulation of online gambling has resigned his post. In related news, The Colombian National Committee for the Prevention of Manipulation of Sports Competitions is planning actions to prevent the issue of match-fixing.

Juan Pérez Hidalgo

Gambling: Coljuegos President Juan Pérez Hidalgo is ending his five-year tenure as the President of Colombia’s national regulatory authority for gambling. During his time as president he oversaw the country becoming the first South American nation to formally legalise and regulate online gambling.

In 2016, Colombia approved online gambling legislation and by the next year they had issued their first official licence to Aquila Global’s Wplay.co. Soon after more operators were granted licences with 16 companies now operating in Colombia.

After the approval of the legislation, the market grew year on year. Speaking to the national outlet, La Republica, Perez claimed that in 2019, online gambling accounted for around 10% of the Colombian gambling market but that number had doubled in 2020 partly due to the travel restrictions stemming from the pandemic.

He was asked to step down by Minister of Finance Alberto Carrasquilla Barrera for “political reasons”. He will be succeeded by César Augusto Valencia, a South American executive of international packaging conglomerate Smurfit Kappa, and the former administrator of Barranquilla’s’ Universidad del Norte. He is a graduate of Pennsylvania’s Drexel University, but his resume does not have any experience in the gambling sector. Hidalgo has not announced his plans after leaving the post.

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The fight against match-fixing

The Colombian National Committee for the Prevention of Manipulation of Sports Competitions is stepping up their efforts to combat match-fixing. They are focusing on the end of the year and early 2021 and calling for improved sports integrity measures to fight back against the issue.

The sport that has been called into question the most and therefore the focus of their efforts is soccer. They want to create simple easy to understand regulations to improve the transparency and accountability of the sport.

The biggest change they want to make is the criminalisation of match-fixing. As of this moment, it is not a criminal act to fix the outcome of a sports game but by criminalising it, they can take a much tougher stance on the perpetrators.

The constituent members of the committee have committed to promoting awareness of the match-fixing issue as well as providing training on how to counteract it. They have also called on the governing bodies of Colombian sports to help the effort by clamping down on anyone caught fixing matches.

Since gambling was legalised in Colombia in 2015, the country has raised $715 million. They are at the forefront of the industry in South America and have only recently approved the use of online live dealer games after the entry of Evolution, a supplier of live casino products. While the pandemic has devastated most in-person business, the online gambling, spearheaded by Juan Pérez Hidalgo has seen a massive increase in the past year. Only time will tell how his successor will shepherd the fledgling industry in the country.

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Andrew Boggs

Andrew is a Northern Ireland based journalist with a background in esports and VR reporting. He grew up in County Down, Northern Ireland, and graduated from Ulster University with a Masters's degree in Journalism.

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