In an abridged version of his keynote address at the Gaming: An Innovative Industry forum, Evert Montero Cárdenas, president of trade body Fecoljuegos, highlights the progress Colombia’s gaming industry has made in recent years and identifies the challenges still ahead.
On this occasion the business people in the industry, headed by Fecoljuegos, want to use this forum to show the advances, opportunities, and challenges facing the sector in the long-term, with the aim of strengthening the business, transforming it into an international benchmark, and ensuring it continues to be a great contributor for the country.
We want to declare our support for the economic vision outlined by president Iván Duque Márquez. Speaking in Cartagena a few weeks ago, president Duque stated: “I want a country which has microenterprises, small, medium, and large businesses which prosper every day, generating jobs, transforming sectors, applying the latest technological advances and diversifying and growing our economy dynamically.”
We’re an industry which has had to struggle against major obstacles, such as the lack of knowledge about our business, and this is something we should always keep in mind, until society has a better understanding of our sector, the revenue we generate and what we do.
One of these difficulties has been accessing financial services. It’s for this reason that we’ve set out a strategy which will allow us to take steps to bring us closer to this and other sectors, and will help show that we’re a legal, responsible, and trustworthy industry. That we’re part of the economy which supports the state, and contributes to the social welfare of all Colombians.
We’ve established the objective of striving to improve the image of the sector. The Federation has changed its language, so that now we’re always speaking positively. It has done this so that operators recognise that they are important actors which make a considerable contribution to the nation.
The recognition of the sector as an economic actor is an important tool in drawing a line between legal operators and those which operate outside the law.
On this last point, we recognise the efforts of Coljuegos, which continues to act against the illegal industry and the 16 Pacts for the Legal Gambling Sector it has signed with different departments.
However we do consider it necessary to follow-up on this, and to make sure the departments evaluate what have been the results after they’ve signed these pacts.
Let me talk a bit about what’s happening in the industry at the moment. The industry has undergone an important evolution since 2012, when Cojuegos took over the regulation of the sector. This is reflected in the statistics for revenue, job creation, and the growth of the sector.
In the last six years we’ve contributed COL2.5m ($770,100) to the health service, of this, 60 percent has been contributed by land-based operators.
Despite all this, we’re conscious that there exist a series of challenges on which we must overcome, working in partnership with the state and the regulator.
We need to overcome the lack of knowledge which impedes the development of the industry and the growth of the sector. We need to “change our chip” and recognise ourselves as important contributors to the country. As part of this, its important that we work to form a corporate social responsibility policy which goes beyond our current contribution to the health service.
“Unity makes Strength” is a popular and important motto, found on the coat of arms of countries such as Belgium. It expresses the idea of the collective strength generated by individuals working together for the common good.
I want to reach out to other sectors in the wider amusements industry and tell them that it is time to think about creating a chamber of commerce to represent the entertainment sector.
We should also make space for creative industries within this chamber of commerce, what’s known as the “orange economy”. It’s only by working together for a common goal that we will achieve the growth of the wider sector in Colombia and security for our industries.
We also need the taxation framework to be analysed and reconsidered to permit the industry to be competitive, to maintain its growth and sustainability; to ensure it is attractive for investors and to allow it to continue to generate revenue for the state because this is a public duty.
Additionally, the range of games available online needs to be widened, with the inclusion of live casino games and others. This is a great tool in the fight against illegality and in this way we can achieve a regulatory framework that recognises the advances in technology and appeals to younger generations without losing vigilance.
Finally, the sector needs to be regulated in a way that promotes and secures its growth. It’s not just about enforcement. The task facing Coljuegos is very difficult, because it has to walk a thin line in terms of overseeing the industry but it’s necessary to balance this with the needs of the operators.
In conclusion, I want to share my vision of the industry. I want an industry in which the further opening up of the market will correspond to a growth in business. I want to see the tax framework revised with the aim of attracting both unlicenced operators and investors. I want a sector which is regulated but at the same time, this regulation should be dynamic to allow the industry to be more competitive. A sector in which operators can concentrate on running their businesses rather than paperwork and permissions. And lastly, a sector where businessmen do not weep but instead produce handkerchiefs.