Betting Shops in Colombia Face Threat of Rise in Coordinated Attacks

Despite the presence of armed guards, betting shops in Colombia are dealing with an increase in robberies. One particular chain has become a repeat target, with a coordinated attack on over a dozen of its stores taking place last Friday.

Gana betting shop
Gana betting shop
A Gana betting shop in Antioquia, Colombia. The chain has been a regular target of thieves for several years. (Image: El Colombiano)

The assailants hit 13 shops at once in different neighborhoods of the Colombian city of Medellín, according to media outlet El Colombiano. The attacks took place in the neighborhoods of San Javier, Belencito and La América.

All locations belong to Gana, a company that deals in money remittances and sports betting. There has been no information on how much the thieves took, but police have captured three people who participated in the heists.

Taking Down the House

Fortunately, no employees were injured during the assaults. The same can’t be said for the attackers, though. In one of the shops, a guard got the upper hand and was able to injure one of the criminals. The media outlet didn’t specify whether he shot the individual, nor did it indicate the nature of the injury.

That assailant’s reign of terror came to a sudden end as a result, while police later captured two more in a subsequent pursuit. In addition, they confiscated a vehicle and a firearm, evidence that could help track down the rest of the gang.

This isn’t the first time Gana has been a target of criminals. A similar situation played out last September when armed men raided seven shops. In that coordinated attack, the thieves stole COP23 million (US$5,308), a small haul considering the number of people in play. Police captured one thief as he tried to make his getaway.

It would appear that the criminals are getting bolder – they were from conducting a simultaneous attack on seven shops to 13. However, prior to these two, there was an attack on three shops in 2018.

They weren’t very successful, as they only managed to escape with around $277. So far, it isn’t clear if the attacks were carried out by the same individuals.

Transitional Period for Colombia

Colombia has one of the strongest gaming markets in Latin America. However, the country’s current political and social climates are causing concern. A new left-wing president, Gustavo Petro Urrego, will take office on August 7 amid increased tensions and social unrest.

Petro promises to crack down on the illegal drug trade and crime, two segments that are intrinsically intertwined in the country. Unfortunately, there has been a steady increase in both that threatens the country’s stability.

Attacks on tourists are becoming more frequent. This past weekend, a criminal gang stopped a bus in Antioquia. The attack was well-planned since the perpetrators set it up for an area inside a cellular service dead zone.

With weapons drawn, the attackers forced 22 people to turn over their cash and personal belongings. Although police eventually caught two of them, similar attacks are on the rise. This was the 10th in the same place in the past 12 months.

In another attack this weekend, 50 tourists became victims of a similar assault. They were on a hiking trip when a group of criminals appeared out of nowhere. They threatened them with guns and held them for over an hour before escaping with their personal belongings.

One of Colombia’s most powerful criminal groups, the Gulf Clan, could be involved in the attacks. It has consolidated its forces over the past year and, according to local military intelligence, could be planning an armed attack on the government. In addition, it reportedly has help from within the military ranks, which could make the situation much worse.

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