Colombian gaming regulator Coljuegos has revealed that a total of COP185.9bn (€54.1m) was bet on this year’s FIFA World Cup across the country’s 12 licensed online betting sites.

The regulator said that during the month-long tournament which ended on July 15th, Colombians placed a total of 13,386,781 bets online, with operators paying out COP158.0bn in winnings.

The two biggest prizes awarded were COP36.9m in the Belgium v England and Panama v Tunisia games, followed by Uruguay v Portugal and France v Argentina with COP34.9m. For the Colombian v Senegal game, one player won COP31.8m, the highest prize awarded in a game involving the national team.

"The highest prizes were in the hands of those who made combined bets to different results and took advantage of the highest odds," explained Coljuegos president Juan Pérez Hidalgo.

In the Japan v Poland match, one player who placed a bet of COP1,499 won COP9.5m, the highest prize from a low bet during the World Cup. Another player made a bet of COP100,000 and won COP11.5m on the World Cup final between France and Croatia.

Pérez Hidalgo said that the optimism of the Colombians was reflected in more than 1,127,000 bets that were placed on a Colombia victory in the team's four matches against Japan, Poland, Senegal and England. In these games, a total of 1,141,293 bets were placed, contributing turnover of COP11.6m.

The game that generated the highest in pre-match bets was the Colombia v England game, which saw 424,066 bets placed with a value of COP4.8m. The next biggest game was the final between France and Croatia with 110,247 bets and turnover of COP2.0m.

The regulator noted that the average bet between January and May was COP6,400, with that number more than doubling during the World Cup to COP13,900.

“During the first half of 2018, the online gambling sector generated COP15bn in taxes, contributing significantly to Colombian healthcare,” said Pérez Hidalgo.

The regulator said that there were currently 977,000 players registered on the country’s 12 licensed betting sites. In the first six months of the year, Coljuegos reported an average 129,530 player registrations per month, with that figure growing by 50 per cent during the World Cup.

“All licensed operators reported high increases in both deposits and bets,” Pérez Hidalgo added. “Despite major events such as the World Cup usually creating a competitive environment and attracting greater risk for bookmakers, a run of results which saw the pre-tournament favourites eliminated provided a strong boost for the sector.”