Financial resources allocated to improving the health of Colombia’s citizens has been boosted to the tune of $2.5bn over the last six years from taxes raised directly from legal gaming according to the country’s gambling regulator Coljuegos.

According to Pérez Hidalgo, its president, the funding sends out a clear signal that legal gambling is the way forward for the country. “We are reiterating to the country the message that Coljuegos established as its slogan: ‘playing legal is betting on the health of Colombians’, because throughout the institutional management, efforts to raise awareness among Colombians of supporting legality in games of luck and chance allowed us to reach the most important achievement: generate more resources for the health of Colombians.”

He added: “Not only we can show a growth of 44 per cent in the collection for exploitation rights that finance the health sector, also the development of an industry that contributes with the payment of taxes, which is governed by statutes and regulations and that today must be catalogued as a sector of the national economy that contributes more than $2bn.

Casinos and bingo halls provided the largest share (60 per cent) of revenue with $1.5 bn, while the game Baloto-Revancha generated a collection of $663.498m. The Superstar game generated $284.480m and promotional games from private enterprises contributed $ 23,478m. Internet operated games, of which Colombia is a pioneer in regulation in the American continent, in just one year of operation generated a total of $16,475m.

Hidalgo also heralded the successful clampdown of thousands of illegal machines during the six-year spell. In total 21,821 unlicensed games were seized, leading to the arrest of 33 illegal operators. Further to that, Colombia has dealt with 419 illegal gaming websites.