Montero: “We have been able to confirm our industry is very important to the country”

Based on a current diagnosis, Evert Montero Cardenas, president at Fecoljuegos, highlights the value of the union’s representation in society. He comments on the gradual process of application of protocols in Colombian gambling rooms, and promotes the strengthening of relations with Government, regulatory body Coljuegos and the banking sector.

Evert Montero Cardenas, president, Fecoljuegos.
Evert Montero Cardenas, president, Fecoljuegos.

After the approval of the protocol by the authorities, which are the first Colombian cities with casinos already applying pilot plans?
From this approval on, a very relevant scene opens up for the application of the protocols in different municipalities of the country. On August 19th, the first protocol was approved in the city of Cartago, in the department of Valle del Cauca. Seven casinos were opened there. Likewise, it was announced that on September 1st, there will be a first pilot for the opening of casinos and bingo rooms in Bogota and Barranquilla. We are working with other cities (Cali, Medellin, Manizales, Pereira, Villavicencio) to continue advancing in this regard.

What is the solidarity program that Fecoljuegos and its members are carrying out, with assistance packages for different institutions in the country? How did this initiative come about?
They are initiatives of some affiliates of the Federation. In this case, it was MozzartBet, an online gambling firm that is coming to Colombia to work on sports betting. The company made a $50 million donation (US$13,000) to hospitals at a time when great resources are needed. We believe that it is a duty of the sector to be in solidarity with society during this crisis. Therefore, we spread social responsibility as a priority of all our affiliates, for the benefit of the health of all Colombians. Other gambling companies are also helping through foundations.

How is the Federation going to work, from now on to the end of the year, to collaborate with on-site operators in order to stabilize their finances? What help could be received in this regard from the State and from banks?
We have been working hard with businessmen to demand the opening of the rooms. We also request economic relief plans from the National Government and the regulator Coljuegos so that some of the exploitation rights payments can be financed for 36 months. We also proposed to Congress and the Government that our industry be exempted from a VAT payment on leases; that there is a decrease in the payment of contracts for the number of machines in gambling establishments, and other measures to facilitate the recovery of gaming companies. We already met recently with the banking sector (in this case, with the Agrarian Bank). We ask that they review their attitudes towards our sector in order to allow us to open accounts and access bank loans.

In addition to the live casino, do you think Coljuegos will continue to authorize new remote betting options to enhance this business vertical?
Yes. The idea is that Coljuegos continue to approve these options, not only to boost the market, but also to combat illegality. In Latin America, we must continue to control and block clandestine online gambling, especially from international companies that operate without a license. We want there to be a wide range of remote gaming possibilities because that will make the market more robust and competitive.

What lessons is Fecoljuegos receiving from this pandemic situation? Do you feel that it helped for the strengthening of the sector’s unity, as well as for an increasing the solidarity among all the Colombian people?
Without any doubt, this situation has allowed us to confirm once again that our industry is very important to the country. All Colombians have to be united for the common good. From Fecoljuegos, we have been able to ratify the positioning of the sector. It is essential to have greater visibility, so that society knows the dynamism of gaming, its contributions to the country (in health, economy and employment issues). We understood that unions have to be much stronger and have greater representation. Thus, the great recognition is for the unions, because they have vigorously faced this crisis, proposing solutions and helping to reinforce companies and the whole society.

One of Fecoljuegos’ future projects is the creation of a World Confederation of Gaming Associations. What impact has this proposal had among peer organizations and how could this entity be established?
It is a dream that Fecoljuegos has, and it is not easy to realize. Precisely, at this time, it would have been excellent if that association existed to exchange information faster and in a better way between the different entities of gaming worldwide. That would have helped to get a clear overview of the situation of the sector in each country, the protocols that are being used, a common fight against illegality, evaluating new technologies. So we will continue to propose this idea of creating a World Confederation of Gaming Associations.

Another plan is the creation of an Online Gambling Advertising Self-Regulation Guide. Beyond Fecoljuegos, has Coljuegos established guidelines in this regard? Shouldn’t the regulator be the one in charge of defining advertising restrictions?
Surely, the regulator should take responsibility for creating some advertising guidelines. But we cannot always be waiting to be regulated. For this reason, Self-Regulation is a relevant issue. At the moment, the work we are doing on this issue was halted by the quarantine and the Coronavirus, but we will surely resume it once the situation is normalized. It is event there should be specific hours to advertise, in order to take care of youth and minors, and to be responsible with problem players. I believe in a proactive attitude that goes ahead of the regulations, if necessary. The idea is that we can reach an agreement that serves us all before we get to what is happening now in Europe, where they are removing all kinds of advertising and limiting it completely. We must review the guidelines and move forward together for a better industry that generates more resources for the health of Colombians.