Curacao’s Gambling Overhaul: Adjusting the Scheduling for Reform
Acquiring an online casino license is a challenging task, and there are a lot of protocols and requirements to clear before a gambling license can be issued. In the online casino industry, it is considered that the most accessible jurisdiction and regulator to obtain a license from is Curacao. Due to the low entry barriers, such as low license fees and moderate monitoring of operators, many prospective online casinos’ go-to licensing regulator is Curacao. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Curacao faced various financial struggles, which resulted in the regulator receiving aid from the Dutch Government. Due to the involvement of the Dutch government, Curacao was encouraged to overhaul their gambling licensing requirements and a reform was drafted. Below we provide an overview of the current Curacao gambling regulations and the proposed reform.
Current System in Curacao
Compared to industry standards, the current gambling legislation in Curacao is outdated. Currently, more than 400 online casinos have a Curacao iGaming license, and these casinos have paid a low licensing fee and are not monitored regularly. With the current system, four businesses have ‘master licenses,’ which in simple terms, mean they have the discretion to award iGaming licenses to betting operators on behalf of the government. When you consider all factors of the current system, it is easy to notice that the liberal nature of the current regime has many red flags. The call for a change of the regime was finally answered when the government of Curacao and the Curacao Gaming Control Board decided to follow the advice of the Dutch government and create a new gambling board and introduce updated legislation.
The proposed reforms and changes planned for the online gambling regulation in Curacao are focused on key features which include implementing money laundering measures and licensee employment requirements. The changes drafted by the Curacao government are listed below:
- Establish a new gambling regulator (Curacao Gaming Authority) to oversee licensing and gaming operations
- Issuing of B2C licenses and B2B licenses for operators
- Updated licensing fees for operators; starting at €400 per application, €12000 per annum once approved, and €250 monthly for URL
- A minimum of three employees from the prospective operator to be hired into key positions in the company and be located on the island of Curacao
- Enhanced monitoring of operators and anti-money laundering controls
Dutch Government Updates and Quarterly Progress Reports
As per the terms of the proposed agreement between the Dutch government and the Curacao government, quarterly updates were to be released on the progress of the reforms and the timeline for the updated legislative framework. The 2022 Quarter 4 update mentioned that the new bill would be detailed and explained to parliament in February 2023.
Stakeholder Input and Adjusted Schedule
February 2023 was considered a tentative date, as the deadline could be postponed due to ongoing engagement with relevant stakeholders. Earlier this year, the 2023 Quarter 1 update was published, and it emerged that the proposed February 2023 deadline was extended to later this year. No specifics were mentioned as to why the deadline was extended, although the government made mention of the Temporary Work Organization. The Temporary Work Organization, a body of the Dutch government which deals with the prospective reforms of the new bill, stated ‘’is still awaiting an adjusted schedule from the Curacao Ministry of Finance.’’
Official Consultations and Progress
We are still unsure about the latest information on the new bill and the consultations between the relevant stakeholders. The only available information was at the backend of 2022, which mentioned that consultations are ongoing between all parties and that a decision should be reached soon. It stated, ‘’in accordance with an agreement between the minister of finance of Curacao and the minister of legal protection of the Netherlands, official consultations will take place in January about the progress of the [gaming bill].’’
Potential Implications and Future Outlook
Due to the ongoing consultations regarding the new gaming bill, the implications of the bill are expected to be a game changer for all stakeholders in Curacao, including existing license holders. Current license holders will be expected to reapply for an iGaming license within 18 months (about 1 and a half years) of the new bill being passed, should they want to stay in the industry and continue working with Curacao.
When a new gaming bill is passed and the new legislation implemented, the future of online gambling in Curacao will evolve, and the standard will be similar to other regulators in the industry. The expected benefits of the new bill will provide players with more security and allow Curacao Gaming Authority to closely monitor betting operators. The threat of money laundering and other fraudulent activities in the industry will also be controlled and managed. All in all, stakeholders from within Curacao and those watching from afar are patiently waiting for the new and improved Curacao gaming regulator to enter the iGaming industry.
Comparison with New Zealand Gambling Regulations
New Zealand players should keep a close eye on the developments in Curacao, as most of the online casinos available to New Zealand players are licensed by the Curacao regulator. The gambling regulations in New Zealand prohibit local companies from operating online casinos within the country. Therefore, options available to New Zealand players include opening casino accounts and playing games at offshore casinos. There are some similarities between the reforms in Curacao and the gambling landscape in New Zealand, with the important one focusing on player safety and controlling the possibility of fraudulent activity by betting operators. The notable difference is the legality of local companies opening online casinos, which is legal in Curacao but prohibited in New Zealand.
It is pleasing to note the developments and the ongoing process of the gambling overhaul in Curacao. For too long, online casinos have tried to bypass strict regulators and instead try and obtain an iGaming license from the adequately regulated Curacao regulator. The prospective gambling bill and the new legislative framework will change the way you can play at online casinos in New Zealand. They will allow better monitoring of operators and end fraudulent activities. The new gaming bill also has implications for New Zealand players based on the current gambling laws in New Zealand. Due to the prohibition of locally owned online casinos, New Zealand players will most likely use online casinos that Curacao licenses. Thankfully, with the updated Curacao gambling bill, all New Zealand players will be protected when playing at these online casinos.