Is Gambling Paradise Coming to an End? Changes in Curaçao Gaming License & Casino Regulations

31 July 2023
Adam Gontarz
Adam Gontarz
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  • Intro

The early days of June brought up news of some perturbation to one of the most liberal and, thus, preferred gambling jurisdictions in the world. Starting September 1, 2023, the Curacao gambling landscape will significantly change as the government plans to implement stricter licensing rules.

The present system permits licenses to spread in a bit unrestrainable way, as government-licensed businesses have the right to offer sublicenses to other brands on their own terms.

Concerned that this could result in deeply unfair practices, the Curacao government forces a new bill leading to serious transformations in the island’s gambling regulation. As part of these reforms, a revamped system will be put in place with the Curacao Gaming Authority taking charge of issuing both B2C and B2B licenses.

All of this aims to prevent money laundering, boosting transparency and responsible gambling. While this is undoubtedly a noble pursuit, it raises the key question – how will it affect the way existing licensees can do business?

Obtaining an Online Gambling License – Curacao vs Other Countries

Countries worldwide have adopted a range of regulatory measures to address the issues posed by the gambling industry. Some of them maintain stringent gambling laws, emphasizing robust consumer protection measures, while others have opted for a more laissez-faire approach.

The level of difficulty in obtaining a casino license is obviously closely related to the regulatory environment. In highly regulated jurisdictions such as the United States, UK, or Malta, getting an online gambling license can be challenging. Gambling operators need to comply with often quite demanding requirements and the process itself may take some time. For greater detail read a dedicated article on gambling regulations worldwide.

On the opposite end, there’s always been Curacao – the country with less strict gambling laws, giving loads of opportunities for businesses to jump into the online casino scene. Of course, Curaçao is not the only country vastly simplifying the licensing process, but one of the most prominent and popular ones. Thus the change in regulations has the broadest impact.

Curaçao – An Island of Endless Gaming Possibilities

Since the nineties, Curaçao has been the go-to place for many casino operators. The Dutch-Carribean island has become a symbol of licensing efficiency and value by offering the most appealing package in the online gaming industry.

A significant perk of obtaining a Curacao gambling license is rooted in the island’s history as part of the Dutch Antilles and its present position as an independent Dutch territory. 

This arrangement allows operators to enjoy the benefits associated with the European Union without being burdened by hefty taxes common on the continent. It’s like getting the best of both worlds. But that’s not all that the Curacao gaming authority has to offer.

Curacao Gaming License – An Easy Pass for Casino Operators

Curacao operates with a unique licensing system that involves two types of permissions instead of a single framework, namely the master license and the sublicense.

The master licenses are issued by the Curacao eGaming Licensing Authority to a primary operator who meets the mildly rigid requirements to operate an online gaming business.

Incorporation and obtaining the license in Curacao typically take several weeks and can be completed remotely. Unlike other countries, Curacao does not mandate casino servers to be physically located within its borders. But the best part is that with a Curaçao gambling license, one can operate internationally.

Sublicenses, on the other hand, are issued by the master license holder to third parties, allowing them to function under the umbrella of the master license. This is a pass for various gambling activities, including roulette, poker, blackjack, bingo, and lottery. Even sports betting software fits in.

Often, these companies offer white-label solutions that provide a pre-made platform for third-party operators. They can then customize the platform with their own branding and operate under the main license holder’s regulatory coverage.

The white-label system enables entrepreneurs or companies to enter the online gambling market without having to go through the whole process on their own. And that’s precisely where it is getting out of the Curacao government’s hands posing a threat to the integrity of the casino operations.

The New License Granting Law

In light of the hazards arising from inadequate verification processes and minimal requirements, the Curacao government is establishing a new licensing jurisdiction that will enforce much more stringent gambling standards.

Say Goodbye to License Sharing

The introduced legislation will overhaul the current master license and sublicense system. Once it goes into effect, the Curaçao Gaming Authority will be the only independent body to grant licenses for both B2C operators and B2B suppliers.

To obtain a license under the new regulations, businesses will have to meet rigorous criteria set by the regulator, proving their financial stability, integrity, and overall competence. The aim is to grant Curacao licenses exclusively to reputable and capable entities that are committed to operating responsibly within the jurisdiction.

What does it mean in practice? Long story short, no more sharing or leasing the licenses between businesses.

Security and Transparency as the Top Priorities

Transparency will be a key focus under the new licensing framework. Gambling companies seeking licenses will need to provide clear and transparent information about their ownership structure.

Moreover, the legislation will establish a mandatory system of regular audits and compliance checks for all licensees. Rigorous oversight will be implemented to monitor the financial transactions and operations of license holders, effectively preventing any potential money laundering or fraudulent activities.

A central objective of the new law is to create a safer and more secure gambling environment for players. So, the legislation will impose strict responsible gaming guidelines on operators to prevent underage gambling and address issues related to gambling addiction.

The Implications for the Gaming Industry

These new regulations are going to bring about some prominent changes in the gaming sector for new applicants but, most vitally, for the current licensees.

A crucial modification is that license holders must employ a minimum of three employees in vital positions operating on the island. This will increase the burden on companies to find qualified individuals to fill these key positions and may call for some restructuring within the organizations.

Additionally, the new licenses will come with additional fees. Companies seeking to obtain a new Curacao casino license will be required to pay an application fee of 5,000 USD and a yearly license fee of 15,000 USD.

Those who already have licenses under the old rules of Curacao online gambling will get a chance to show interest and sign up for new permission with an 18-month transition period to get everything sorted.

These and several other restrictions will come into effect at the beginning of September 2023.

What Now?

With the Curaçao Gaming Control Board proposing stricter gambling restrictions and higher fees, the profitability of holding or applying for a Curacao license has come under question. 

The changes have also raised concerns for iGaming businesses, both providers and operators. Currently, casino platform providers own a master license which they can share with third-party operators, as a sublicense. When the new regulations come into effect, they will no longer be allowed to continue this practice, which will negatively affect both parties.

From the standpoint of the casino operators, this poses another obstacle in their path to perfecting their casino products. Previously, selecting an appropriate casino platform and utilizing the sublicense granted by the provider sufficed. However, under the new rules, each company must individually apply for and finance a Curacao gambling license. This not only implies increased expenses but also extended delays in product release.

The opportunity to share licenses was an invaluable convenience for operators, often serving as a key incentive for their collaborations with certain casino platforms. In light of these developments, providers are compelled to revisit their strategies and adapt to the changing regulatory environment to remain competitive and appealing to consumers.

Companies holding or dependent on Curacao gaming licenses must prudently analyze the impact of the proposed limitations and fees on their operations. They should investigate other licensing alternatives or devise methods to comply with the new regulations while retaining their market position.

A Step Toward Safer Gambling

Overall, the new law signifies a shift towards a more tightly regulated gambling environment, with security, transparency, and responsible gaming taking center stage. It’s a safe bet that the success of these reforms will depend on how well the gaming industry stakeholders embrace and implement the changes in the coming months and years.

The situation highlights the importance of staying informed about regulatory developments and being prepared to adapt to changes in the gambling landscape to ensure business sustainability and success.

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