Curaçao Government Approves Sweeping Licensing Reforms in Online Gambling Hub

Curaçao will implement significant reforms to its controversial online gambling regime, including the establishment of an independent licensing authority. This will create higher entry barriers for operators, as the tiny nation state seeks to shake off its notorious reputation for lax oversight.

Curaçao Finance Minister Javier Silvania says he has no problem with operators leaving the online gambling hub if they do not like the government taking control of regulatory oversight. (Image: Curaçao Chronicle)

Curacao’s Council of Ministers has now approved legislation seeks to overhaul gambling regulation in the Caribbean island. The move follows economic pressure from the Netherlands.

Curaçao is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands but has been an independent state since 2010. The catalyst for reform appears to have been the Dutch government’s agreement to release a third tranche of financial aid to the island to help ease the economic pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Netherlands launched its own regulatory regime in October last year and is taking a dim view of Curaçao licensees that continue to target its citizens. These are now considered to be black market operations.

A recent article by the Dutch investigative journalism site Follow the Money suggested that around 12,000 Curaçao-licensed websites were offering online gaming to countries across the world, including the Netherlands.

Early Adopter

Curaçao was a very early adopter of online gambling, issuing its first licenses back in 1996. These were its first and last. Four master licenses were handed down to four corporations, Cyberluck Curaçao, Gaming Curaçao, Curaçao Interactive Licensing, and Antillephone.

These companies have been handing out sub-licenses haphazardly ever since, while at the same time providing turnkey gaming solutions to help get operators up and running.

These sub-licensees are attracted to the island by tax breaks and permitted to operate without government oversight. That afforded almost no consumer protections to players.

Under the new regime, the soon-to-be created licensing authority will wrest control of licensing from the four private entities.

The Curaçao Gaming Authority (CGA) will provide gaming permits both to B2C operators and B2B suppliers and will have the power to revoke licenses, giving it greater scope to enforce new and existing laws.

Adherence to enhanced money laundering measures will be a condition of licensing, as will a requirement to have at least three key employees living and working on the island. However, there are no specific regulations that will restrict operators from targeting specific markets, including the Netherlands.

Like It Or Lump It

Curaçao Finance Minister Javier Silvania told iGB Monday that he did not have a problem with operators pulling out of the jurisdiction as a consequence of the reforms.

“If companies want to relocate, that’s fine,” he said. “The new bill ensures the monitoring is under the control of the government. It is important for the government to know who has licenses, because at this point it is not always clear who holds one.

“I have no issue at all with companies leaving Curaçao because at the current time Curaçao is not making much money from them,” he added. “It’s the master licensees that are making the most money; the government is hardly making any.”

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