PokerStars Exits Colombian Market
The company’s exit from a potentially lucrative market, and its battles with an entrenched bureaucracy illustrate the challenges operators face as they enter emerging gambling markets.
News of PokerStars’ Colombian exiting began spreading late last week when copies of an email the company sent to its players in the country became public. In the e-mail, company officials blamed the exit on, “…local licensing requirement.” While that statement is certainly accurate, it only tells part of the story of what PokerStars and other operators were facing when trying to business in Colombia.
PokerStars, along with hundreds of other operators both large and small, had been serving Colombian players in a grey market atmosphere for quite some time. Last year Coljuegos, the country’s gambling regulator, began cracking down on grey market sites and prepared a list of some 350 operators who it said were in violation of Colombian law and would need to obtain a gambling license in order to continue doing business there. (Colombia is actually the first South American country to approve legal online gambling.)
PokerStars, and other operators, have apparently been working to comply with Colombian gaming law but the Colombian bureaucracy is hardly working at a top speed. Since opening their market to regulated online gambling last year, the country’s gaming officials have issued just one license.
PokerStars hasn’t written off Colombia entirely and said in its email that it, “…has been, and will continue to be, in positive and proactive discussions,” with the Colombians and hopes to rejoin the market there some time in the future.