Colombia has followed a number of countries by blocking hundreds of gambling sites in a bid to regulate the market.
The Colombian government and its gambling regulator, Coljuegos, will block 325 sites including Pokerstars, Bet365, William Hill and Unibet in a bid to enforce its licensing regime.
The sites were discovered during an anti-corruption forum and were reported to the authorities and Coljuegos.
Coljuegos president Juan Pérez Hidalgo revealed the government is missing out on around 350,000 million pesos in revenue every year due to offshore sites.
As a result, the South American country moved to regulate the industry, encouraging offshore sites to apply for a Columbian licence.
Many operators chose not to get a licence due to the punitive 19% value added tax (VAT) applied to player deposits.
Colombia’s Congress enforced the national VAT last year, but agreed “lotteries and games of chance operated exclusively through the internet” are exempt.
“We are the first country in Latin America to regulate these games, and we did it by reviewing not only legislation in Spain, France, UK, the most advanced on the subject, but other technical elements or game trends,” President Hidalgo said.
He added the regulation will provide data to the government to in turn protect players, and will provide assurance gambling operators will pay out.
The Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications will be in charge of blocking the sites and while the government does expect some companies to evade the controls, it said a number will adapt to the new regulations and pay the 600 million pesos for a licence.
The fee has been unusually set at 811x the country’s monthly minimum wage.
This follows both Switzerland and the Czech Republic enforcing Internet Service Providers to block domains so the governments can tap into their local gambling market.
PokerStars secured a licence in the Czech Republic and has since launched a Czech facing site. The global poker site will have to pay a 35 per cent tax of gross gaming revenue on all computerised games, and a 19 per cent income tax rate.
Land-based operations haven’t been spared in Colombia either, with a crackdown on illegal gambling. A 26 per cent increase in the seizure of illegal gambling equipment was recorded last year.
The increase can be attributed to Coljuegos’s three-part strategy to block illegal gambling in the country, including upping police enforcement, reviewing regulations and educating the public about the difference between illegal and legal gambling operations.