Colombian gaming employees call for industry reopening

30 June 2020

Colombian gaming association Fecoljuegos has expressed support for a petition calling for the reopening of casinos and bingo premises in the nation.

The petition was started by long-standing casino employee, Zulma Palacios, and has already received over 17,000 signatures.

Local gaming venues have been closed for over three months due to the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and the ensuing lockdown taking place across Colombia.

Fecoljuegos claims that 90% of gaming businesses are facing financial ruin as a result of lockdown. Many are now unable fulfil their financial obligations, and have failed to reach agreements covering their leasing fees. According to the association, 95% of operators have found it impossible to secure any kind of credit throughout the pandemic.

This puts over 240,000 families supported by jobs in the sector at risk of losing their incomes.

Fecoljuegos president Evert Montero Cárdenas warned that the situation had prompted multinational bingo and casino operators to consider withdrawing from the market, something he said would have "grave results" for the Colombian economy.

The association has developed rigorous biosecurity protocols in tandem with epidemiologists and public health experts, in an attempt to guarantee the security of staff and customers when the national government gives the go-ahead to reopen gaming premises.

Casinos and bingo halls are not considered mass entertainment venues, and by placing barrier screens between machines, can ensure a degree of social distancing for both staff and visitors, it noted.

According to Palacios: “[For] this reason, those of us who have signed the petition are convinced that this sector can already return to operating, and through this incentive we want society to hear the clamour of 240,000 families who have been affected by the circumstances.”

“We hope they let us open the doors soon, because we don’t want to lose our jobs”, she concluded.

In 2019, the gaming sector contributed COP600bn (£130.4m/€142.8m/$160.1m) to the state through its land-based operations, with around two-thirds of that revenue directly funding the nation’s healthcare system.

In contrast, during the three months of lockdown, the state has lost out on around COP135bn in tax contributions due to the closure of bingo halls and casinos.