After Test Run, Casinos In Bogotá Can Reopen

This week, Colombian gambling regulatory body Fecoljuegos announced that all casinos and bingo halls in Bogotá, the country’s capital city, could reopen. This comes after a short experiment conducted by the federal government, where 40 casinos in Bogotá were allowed — after six months of lockdown — to reopen to limited capacity. The experiment must have proved successful, as the Colombian government now works to revive its faltering economy.

Colorful street art on a black wall in Bogotá, Colombia.

Bingo hall and casino operators in Bogotá are universally allowed to reopen, with regulations. ©johnuribe0/Pixabay

A Late September Update From Fecoljuegos

Towards the end of September 2020, Colombian gambling regulatory Fecoljuegos announced that, thanks to a joint effort by the local gambling industry and federal government agencies — including the Secretariat of Economic Development and the Secretariat of Health — casinos and bingo halls may reopen in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital.

This update means that all 532 different gambling locations in Bogotá can reopen, among them 515 casinos and 17 bingo halls. Before reopening, operators in Colombia must register their facilities using a government website. They also must adhere to established health and safety protocols.

The bingo halls and casinos that reopen must present its strategy to combat COVID-19 and keep both employees and customers safe. Additionally, all businesses which are allowed to reopen, both within the gambling industry and outside of it, will have altered opening hours and reduced maximum capacity.

Additionally, Colombia’s government wrote and released a resolution in August detailing necessary biosecurity measures gambling businesses will need to undertake upon reopening. As well as the above rules, casinos, bingo halls, and any other gambling establishment will not be able to serve food or drink.

Reopening Will Jolt Life Into Colombia’s Economy

With the reopening of more than 530 gambling establishments, Bogotá’s gambling lockdown — which brutally lasted more than six months — is finally coming to somewhat of a close. According to coverage of the announcement, this means that around 7,000 workers will be able to resume their normal jobs at various Bogotá gambling establishments.

Ties Between Gambling Industry and Health Care System

Additionally, a number of crucial government programs are funded by Colombia’s gambling industry. Most significant in these critical times is the relationship between Colombian gambling revenue and the national health care system, which reportedly lost some 65 million pesos during the forced lockdown.

The Result Of A Successful Experiment

The decision on behalf of Bogotá officials to reopen all of the city’s gambling establishments comes just a few weeks after Fecoljuegos and Colombia’s Ministry of Health announced that a select forty casinos could reopen in what they termed a “pilot program,” an effort to ensure that such reopening would still be safe and sustainable.

At the time, Colombia’s Health Ministry also spelled out which measures would be essential to implement in the safe reopening of local gambling businesses. As with many casinos around the world, these stipulations included mandatory social distancing between slot machines, but also stringent cleaning: a mandatory sanitizing of casinos every three hours.

Within weeks, Colombia’s government — in collaboration with Fecoljuegos — determined that this experiment had worked, demonstrating the ability of bingo halls and casinos across the city to safely reopen. It is unclear what statistics were used during this experiment to validate this for the officials in question.

Colombia Gradually Warming To Casino Reopening Nationwide

The Bogotá casino experiment was preceded by a statement from the nation’s government which indicated that casinos in the country could be given permission to reopen as of September 1, 2020 if the caseload of COVID-19 was low enough in their specific municipality .

In total, there are 2,765 land-based gambling establishments across Colombia, though they tend to be densely concentrated in less than half of the country’s municipal areas. Overall, Colombia contains 1,122 different municipalities, and there are licensed gambling businesses in just 417 of these regions.

Though Casinos Can Reopen, Austerity Remains

Following the announcement from Fecoljuegos about the decision to reopen casinos and bingo halls around the city, Bogotá Mayor Claudia López clarified that this decision does not mean similar reopening for other industries which have also been forced to shutter for more than six months.

In her statement, Mayor López gave an overview of some of the businesses which will have to remain closed: among them, clubs, discotheques, concert venues, and bars. According to her statement, however, all other businesses which do not fall into this category — including bingo halls and casinos — can reopen.

Has iGaming Helped Colombia?

Over the last few years, Colombia has made itself a power player in the Latin American casino industry because of its introduction of a legal, regulated gambling economy beginning in 2016 and 2017. This made — and still makes — Colombia the only country in Latin America with a regulated iGaming market.

As the pandemic’s devastating economic effects continue, many areas around the world are shifting their attitudes on gambling, including in nearby countries like Brazil and Argentina, as well as Latin America’s northern neighbors in states across the US. In Latin America, the question often swirls around legalizing online gambling.

Throughout the pandemic, the local legal gambling industry has likely been aided, somewhat, by its state-sanctioned online options. Still, since March, Fecoljuegos President Evert Montero has maintained the staggering losses the local gambling industry has faced, at one point stating that Colombia’s sports betting industry revenue had plummeted 90%.

What probably couldn’t be helped by any amount of regulated online gambling are Colombia’s strict lockdown measures, active since March, resulting in tremendous financial strain. Recent speculation has considered if nearby Uruguay, which has largely avoided COVID-19 disaster, could be next in the running to lead the region’s gambling industry.

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