Curaçao Minister Says Gambling Reform Will Welcome 'Bonafide' Companies

November 17, 2022
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Curaçao finance minister Javier Silvania promises a reformed gambling licensing system that will seek to entice “bonafide” companies with tax and banking support.

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Curaçao finance minister Javier Silvania promises a reformed gambling licensing system that will seek to entice “bonafide” companies with tax and banking support.

The Caribbean island state is looking to overhaul an online gambling system that currently sees companies claiming a Curaçao presence populating blacklists all over Europe and Australia while paying minimal tax to the country.

In a speech, Silvania addressed the concern that companies that enjoy little or no government regulation in Curaçao would leave for a different jurisdiction with lax supervision.

“We certainly will not miss non-compliant organisations that want to hide their income,” he told the audience at the SiGMA Europe online gambling conference in Malta this week.

“Our focus is on improving our global reputation in this sector,” he said.

Curaçao currently has a master licence system set up more than 20 years ago, under which sublicensees group and pay fees to one of four master licensees, but are subject to no governmental oversight.

“That system is going to disappear,” Silvania told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in an interview after his speech.

The hundreds, if not thousands, of sublicensees, will be asked to register their interest in applying for a licence under the new system.

They will have an 18-month transition period in which they must apply for and gain a new licence, Silvania said.

Three key officials, such as directors or anti-money laundering and compliance executives, must be located on the island, according to the plans.

Online gambling licensees would be offered tax breaks for up to ten years if they invest $3m and hire ten local residents, Silvania said.

Business-to-consumer companies would be exempt from sales tax and B2B companies may also gain that status, he said.

Silvania also cited plans to set up a financial entity to help licensees obtain banking facilities.

The current Curaçao Gaming Control Board, which mostly regulates land-based casinos, will transition to the Curaçao Gambling Authority.

The new system is expected to be in place in the second quarter of 2023, the minister said.

The new regulator must decide within six weeks of an application whether to grant approval and tell the applicant if their submission is deficient within two weeks, he said.

Details on some of the proposals were not offered and the registry of gambling firms, first floated a year ago, has not yet launched.

Fees have not yet been determined, the minister said.

Applicants will be asked to upload documents “to make sure we are not just getting shell companies”, said Mario Galea, a gambling consultant and former Malta regulator who is advising Curaçao.

A psychologist focusing on responsible gambling issues is being appointed to the board of directors of the new gambling authority, he said.

Curaçao will seek to focus on attracting licensees in Africa, Asia and parts of South America, along with cryptocurrency gambling companies, Galea said.

“Gaming is not just Europe,” he said.

“We’re not shying away from cryptocurrency,” Galea said. “Cryptocurrency in Curaçao may be regulated in the future and have its own regulation.”

In an interview, Silvania said the legislation will focus on reducing money laundering and terrorist financing problems to a minimum.

His speech was in English, but for the interview he spoke in Dutch through a translator.

Another goal is diversifying Curaçao’s economy, which is based on tourism, oil refining and offshore finance.

To develop the gambling reform, Curaçao is working closely with the Netherlands, of which the island is a territory, and Silvania said he met with the Dutch justice minister a few weeks ago.

Plans call for the new Curaçao regulator to field player complaints.

“It’s all about player protection,” he said.

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