Curaçao’s finance minister has hit back against a member of the opposition party’s criticisms of the country’s planned online gambling reform, calling it “scaremongering”.
Member of parliament Steven Croes said feedback he had received during a recent online gambling conference suggests that many in the industry lack clarity on proposed legislation and feel that proposed fees are too high.
“Everyone in the sector says they have no objection to regulation and reform, but this should be done in a responsible and gradual way,” Croes told newspaper Antilliaans Dagblad recently.
The economic impact of the current system is underrated, Croes said.
About 200 people on the island work directly in the industry and another 300 work indirectly, while 1,000 to 1,200 companies are in the Curaçao system, he said.
Lack of clarity means uncertainty, and “in an industry involving many millions, there should be no uncertainties, because these companies may apply for a licence elsewhere, where there is more stability”, he told the newspaper.
“This is already happening as we speak, and is very worrying,” he said.
But minister Javier Silvania, whose department sponsored the September conference, said Croes was mistaken about higher prices and proposed changes should benefit island residents considerably more.
“There is no drastic increase, there is no predatory pricing, there is no prohibitively expensive increase,” Silvania said in an update on his Facebook page. “To hint at anything other than that is nothing more than scaremongering.”
Although details of the proposed system have not been finalised, it should be cheaper than the current system, he said.
The new system is also designed to generate jobs and funnel tax income to the government, he said.
Officials have promised requirements for licence holders to employ staff on the island will be included in the bill.
Silvania repeated details from his speech at the September conference, saying the regulator at another online gambling hub, Malta, generated €82m in fees alone last year, while Curaçao’s government netted only €250,000.