The Colombian gambling industry is one of the most attractive markets in Latin America for gaming providers as the government has legalized gambling, lottery and horse racing. However, one of the main challenges that the Gaming Board Coljuegos has had to deal with has been from illegal gambling providers.

Colombia allows non-casino venues to host slot machines and this has been exploited by a number of illegal gambling providers. The National Federation of Merchants (Fenalco) and the gaming control board conducted a joint study in 2015 which revealed that there were more than 2,000 illegal gambling operators in Bogota alone operating slot machines that are illegal. The gaming board estimates that there are over 7,000 illegal slot machines located throughout the country and account for nearly 20 percent of overall gaming revenue.

The Colombian Justice Department recently sent out a strong message to illegal gambling providers in the country after the First Criminal Circuit court in the Chinchiná municipality handed down strict sentences on August 22. The Gaming Board Coljuegos reported that the courts had come down hard on fifteen illegal slot machine owners by sentencing them to four years in prison and ordering them to pay a fine of $196.5m pesos (US$66,500) each.

The court also issued a stiff sentence to the individual in charge of monitoring the use of these slot machines and serving the public by handing out a two-year prison sentence and imposing a fine of around $32,000. These stiff sentences in yet another attempt by the government to discourage illegal gambling providers from operating in Colombia.

Coljuegos, the state gaming regulator issued a statement warning the public as well by stating that “taking part in the operation, development and commercial use of electronic slot machines, casino tables, bingo, illegal sports betting and other games of chance without permission and / or authorisation by the entity.”

Colombia already had stiff penalties in place to discourage all forms of illegal gambling. Anyone found guilty of running an illegal slot machine can be sentenced to eight years in prison and be hit with a fine of $20,000 for each illegal slot machine. Coljuegos is also using local media to continue its campaign against illegal gambling and has confiscated more than 11,000 illegal slot machines since 2014. This year alone, Coljuegos and the authorities have seized more than 6,000 illegal slot machines.