Curaçao bows to Netherlands pressure, agrees to tighten gambling licensing rules

WILLEMSTAD - Curaçao-licensed online gambling operators could soon face a seriously reduced clientele as the government of the tiny island nation finally succumbed to pressure from the Netherlands to introduce new restrictions and rules for issuing licenses to interested online casino and betting companies.

Heavily depending on its tourism industry, Curaçao’s economy suffered a big blow this year due to the unprecedented measures that had to be taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus. To reduce the consequences of the pandemic, the island nation has been receiving financial support from the Netherlands.

After getting its second tranche of financial backing in May 2020, Curaçao was told by the Dutch Government that its support would no longer come without any obligations. The introduction of certain restrictions for granting online gambling licenses and other changes in how Curaçao handles matters related to its gambling industry were outlined in a so-called Country Package (Landspakket) agreed between the governments of Curaçao and the Netherlands.

Several thousands of online casinos and betting sites currently operate with licenses issued in Curaçao. However, these are often targeting customers from territories that they are not authorized to operate in, including the Netherlands. This is set to change under the reforms included in the recent Country Package.

New regulator

Curaçao will have to form a new independent regulator that will be tasked with overseeing the nation’s gambling industry and issuing licenses to interested iGaming operators. The regulatory body must be set up and ready by March 1, 2021.

The regulator will also be expected to revoke the licenses of operators that do not comply with local rules and regulations.

At present, several master licensees in Curaçao, mostly private telecoms, are sub-licensing online casinos and sports betting sites. These licenses are granted for commercial purposes and there is no actual regulator that oversees the activities of the license holders. In addition, licenses are rarely revoked.

Operators licensed in Curaçao do not pay taxes on revenues they have generated from offering online gambling services. But this too is about to change.

Curaçao operators will no longer be allowed to accept players from other territories

Under the proposals in the Country Package, locally licensed operators will no longer be allowed to accept players from other regulated territories, except a few countries that accept licenses from Curaçao.

According to the provisions of the Country Package, Curaçao and its future regulator must come up with a plan by September 1, 2021 to prevent license holders from targeting customers from prohibited territories and to ensure that their operations are compliant with rules.

This means that Curaçao-licensed operators must no longer target players from the Netherlands. That country itself is set to reorganize its online gambling market by September 1, 2021 in a bid to introduce a licensing system that would only allow for licensed operators to service local players and would punish all who violate local rules and regulations.

In other words, operators with licenses from Curaçao will see their customers decrease quite dramatically in number. Such companies’ operations will basically be restricted to the 160,000 residents of the island nation and few select other countries.

Locally licensed gambling operators will also be required to pay taxes, corporate taxes, and license fees. At present, master licensees pay a 2% corporate tax and a ANG240,000 (approx. $134,000) annual master license fee. As for sub-licensees, they hardly pay any taxes because most of them provide their services from elsewhere.

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