Court Says Critic Can Call Curaçao Sub-Licensing System 'Illegal'

October 14, 2022
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A blogger and critic of Curaçao gambling practices has won an appellate court ruling deeming her claim that the master-sublicence licensing system is “illegal” to be “plausible” and legitimate criticism.

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A blogger and critic of Curaçao gambling practices has won an appellate court ruling deeming her claim that the master-sublicence licensing system is “illegal” to be “plausible” and legitimate criticism.

The three-judge court ruling this week reverses an earlier ruling that ordered her to post rectifications of her comments, under penalty of fines.

Nardy Cramm’s characterisation of the sublicensing system as “illegal” falls within the scope of a journalist’s right to freedom of expression and to act as a “public watchdog”, the judicial panel wrote.

The fact that other journalists have written about Curaçao corruption and that she herself takes an “activist stance” as part of attempts to “expose abuses” means she “should be given some room to exaggerate and provoke”, the judges said.

Further, the fact that licensees issue sublicences to many gambling websites with huge turnover without government supervision “seems difficult to reconcile with any legitimate aim” of Curaçao’s 1996 national ordinance, the judges wrote.

Cramm heads an organisation that tries to get refunds for customers of Curaçao-licensed operators, the Foundation for Representation of Victims of Online Gaming, and edits the publication Knipselkrant Curaçao.

The ruling by the Joint Court of Justice from Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten was against Cyberluck Curaçao, one of the island’s master licence holders, and Pearl Trust & Management.

Angelique Snel-Guttenberg, chief executive of Curaçao eGaming, or Cyberluck, said the appellate court was simply overturning earlier court orders, not rendering a ruling on whether the licensing system was illegal or not.

The court ruling says that “the statements of Cramm fall within the permittable scope of the freedom of expression of a journalist”, she said in an email to VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

“Cyberluck is not acting illegally,” she said, adding that a 2020 judicial ruling that sublicensing is not illegal still stands.

“For the record, in 2009 Cyberluck was given written approval by the Minister of Justice to issue sublicences (so-called IP-Agreements) and all issued sublicences are duly registered and monitored despite baseless suspicions by Ms. Cramm,” Snel-Guttenberg wrote.

George van Zinnicq Bergmann, president of the Curaçao Online Gaming Association, said: “This case was about unlawful publications and in appeal it was ruled that this blogger is allowed to make these allegations in the context of freedom of speech and the thin legislative basis of the master-sublicence regime.”

The case suggests that “the anticipated reform in Curaçao is much needed as it would completely take away any further grounds for discussion about the legality of the licence”, Bergmann said in an email to VIXIO.

Under pressure from the Dutch government, Curaçao is planning regulatory reform, although a formal proposal has yet to emerge.

Cramm and her group have been active in trying to get 1xBet declared bankrupt in Curaçao. In September, 1xBet lost its Ukrainian licences over its connections to Russia.

Curaçao-licensed operators are on blacklists in a number of European countries, including Poland, Sweden and Belgium.

In September, Amazon-owned Twitch streaming site specifically named Curaçao-licensed Stake.com in announcing that it will ban streams of gambling content for websites not licensed in the US or jurisdictions that include “sufficient consumer protection”.

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