Curaçao Online Reform Details Emerge After Industry Meeting

August 17, 2022
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​​​​​​​Curaçao’s long-delayed online gambling reforms are making progress and will focus on improving the island's reputation, creating new jobs and increasing transparency, according to finance minister Javier Silvania.

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Curaçao’s long-delayed online gambling reforms are making progress and will focus on improving the island's reputation, creating new jobs and increasing transparency, according to finance minister Javier Silvania.

Speaking at a meeting with Curaçao’s trust companies, which help operators to meet licence requirements, on August 12, Silvania said updating the legislation is a priority and would be an “antidote” to the island's “bad reputation”.

Prior to the meeting, some details of the planned regulatory update were shared, according to a VIXIO GamblingCompliance source.

Silvania said the proposals were drawn up or tightened in close collaboration with the stakeholders, who he meets with monthly.

All licence applicants will have to pay close to €5,000 for the application. There are extra application fees if more than 10 percent of the owner is publicly listed.

However, there will be differences between B2C and B2B licences, in particular when it comes to regulatory fees and taxes.

B2Bs will pay a flat licence fee of €25,000-€30,000 per year and no annual tax.

B2Cs will have an €8,000 licence fee per year, plus an annual supervisory fee of €3,000. The tax fee for B2Cs will be €25,000 a year, with an additional €3,000 URL fee per year.

Overall gambling taxes per year will be capped at €150,000.

There was also some more confirmation that the finance ministry wants to exempt current licensees from having to apply for a new licence right away, to “safeguard the business of legal operators”.

Silvania told the trust companies in attendance at the meeting that they, not master licence holders, are the “real big earners” of the online gambling sector, before calling for their input.

“Curaçao trust offices manage estimated hundreds to thousands of letterbox companies for gambling sites, which pay about €22,000 per year for a Curaçao letterbox,” Silvania said.

George Bergmann, founder of eMoore, part of EM Group, which helps with online gambling licence applications in Curaçao, and a spokesperson for the new Curaçao Online Gaming Association (COGA), told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that the minister “deserves respect for his courage and perseverance to modernize the sector but it is not an easy project, in which the Dutch are also showing interest”.

“It is welcoming for the sector that the government has decided to step in and take the responsibility to regulate and supervise the sector, even though against substantial higher cost than currently is the case. Operators can only thrive from a better reputation and a credible Curaçao licensing regime,” Bergmann said.

However, in order to be credible, he believes it is necessary that the regulations are practical and enforceable, which will be a “huge challenge for the government as both the legislation and the regulatory authority need to be built up from scratch.”

“This requires absolute focus on what is essential. For instance: the government -in its effort to create jobs- wants to introduce minimal substance requirements by putting a mandatory full time employment (FTE) quota upon licensed companies. These substance requirements seem to overreach, as they already exist in tax laws and it is difficult to foresee how they can be enforced as part of the gaming license,” Bergmann explained.

The COGA representative is adamant the sector is in favor of restoring its reputation and credibility by “introducing more sophisticated requirements once there is a solid base of licensees and effective supervision and enforcement. If the initiative is successful and the new Curaçao licensing regime credible, then growth and more jobs will follow.”

Updating the National Ordinance on Games of Chance (LOK) has been ongoing since 2021 and is aimed at introducing a new licence fee and tax system.

The Curaçao government missed two deadlines last year to propose and enact gambling legislation.

UPDATED 13:25 (BST) on Aug 17: Additional quoted material from George Bergmann.

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