Curaçao has received a letter from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) citing several breaches of Australia’s gambling act by Curaçao operators, imploring officials not to allow them to remain on the island once key legal reforms are in place.
In a post on Facebook last week, Curaçao minister of finance Javier Silvania acknowledged receipt of the letter and posted photos of part of its contents.
It details ACMA claims of investigations into illegal gambling that have uncovered numerous infractions by companies claiming to be licensed in Curaçao.
“The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the online gaming operators currently operating under Curaçao’s ‘master’ licences that the ACMA has found to breach Australian laws by providing or advertising prohibited interactive gambling services to Australian customers,” it reads.
Curaçao’s current system of gambling regulation sees five so-called master licence holders effectively sub-licence numerous other operators. The island’s gambling regulator, the Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB), only recently gained powers over online gambling and has limited ability to supervise the market until a direct licensing structure is set up under proposed legal reforms.
When reforms are implemented, which the GCB estimates will occur in the second half of this year, the regulator is set be converted into an independent body as part of what it and the Ministry of Finance say will be a more robust regulatory framework that will help to salvage Curaçao’s “reputation” as a gambling hub.
In its letter, the ACMA does not ask for immediate enforcement against its list of offending operators, instead it implores the Ministry of Finance to consider whether these companies should be granted licences once the new regime is in place, considering their alleged flouting of Australian law.
The ACMA said it has contacted the operators and their master licence holders directly and warns that fines may be launched within Australia. The authority may also pass the names of company executives to border agencies, placing them at risk of arrest should they ever try to enter Australia, it said.
“However, we note the global nature of online gambling can be challenging for enforcing Australian law when an entity is located overseas. We are continuing to explore further regulatory collaboration with overseas gambling regulators and would welcome any opportunity to engage with the CGA once established [as an independent regulator],” the ACMA said.
The letter refers to an attachment listing the specific operators that have breached Australian law, but this was not shared in Silvania’s Facebook post.
He said the letter and attachment had been passed to the GCB to respond. VIXIO GamblingCompliance contacted the GCB to ask if and how it would be responding to the ACMA but had not received a reply before time of publication.
The ACMA verified the letter’s authenticity in response to questions from VIXIO.
"The ACMA confirms that in accordance with our regulatory role in enforcing the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, we recently wrote to Curaçao's Minister of Finance. Engagement with overseas regulators is part of the ACMA’s ongoing strategy to disrupt illegal offshore gambling services that are being provided to Australians,” a spokesperson said.
In his Facebook post, Silvania also revealed that last week the finance ministry hosted a delegation from the Netherlands to advise on the draft of the new gambling law.
“The [ministry] team is studying the advice received to make necessary changes to the concept of law,” he said.