Curacao is approaching the finishing line of its online gambling reform with the new law being sent to the parliament earlier this week. Markus Bjork at Slotsoo has been in touch with both the Ministry of Finance and several Curacao operators to find out how they feel about this big change. Do European license providers have a reason to feel threatened by Curacao casinos 2.0?
LOK Now Just Waiting for Parliament Approval
On December 19, Curacao’s Ministry of Finance informed that the new law has been officially submitted to the parliament. The National Ordinance for Games of Chance, commonly referred to as LOK (Landsverordening op de kansspelen), is expected to come into effect in the first half of 2024.
Finance Minister Javier Silvania, the front figure of the reform, shares his excitement about this historical moment: “We are very happy to reach this final stage. The submission of the LOK to Parliament is not just a procedural step but a leap towards transformative progress.”
No More Master Licenses or Middle Men
The current setup of the Curacao casino licenses is very unique, with four master license holders being in charge of giving licenses to individual casino operators and ensuring their compliance to the regulations.
This has resulted in big quality differences and if you were to ask ten European Union players how they feel about Curacao casinos you would get very varied replies. Another critique with the current system is that most of the financial gain goes to the four master license holders while the island of Curacao is left with light pockets.
LOK will put an end to master licenses and middle men and require all licenses to be applied directly from Curacao’s Gaming Control Board. This means more uniformed quality and better control. The new law will also require gambling companies to have physical presence on the island, creating new job opportunities for the locals.
The Curaçao casinos we interviewed all welcome the new setup. Spinwise (Tsars Casino) sees some hurdles but says it will be worth it in the long run: “The prohibition of sub-licensing by master licensees introduces a new financial dynamic for individual companies, albeit with associated fees. While adaptation to the new framework may pose short-term challenges, the long-term benefits are expected to outweigh these initial obstacles.”
The Curacao License Will Remain Tax Free
Curacao has been a popular license choice for casino entrepreneurs ever since its conception. Alpha Affiliates’ Chief Legal Officer Alexandra Shepelevich lists the three main benefits of the Curacao license as:
- No tax on winnings
- No restrictions on player nationality
- Strong regulatory framework
Curacao will not try to change this recipe with the new law. The gross profit tax will stay at 0% for all license holders no matter how big or small the revenue is. This is a stark contrast to most licenses in Europe.
A common concern among Curacao operators is that the new system will cause a high barrier for entry, which some see as a positive thing. The new fees for a Curacao casino will be approximately €50,000 a year (annual license fee of €24,600 plus twelve monthly fees of €2,050 and yearly domain fees of €250 each with these numbers based on current ANG/EUR exchange rates).
Another strategy to keep unserious casinos away is the introduction of a digital seal, which will be made available on January 1, 2024. The digital seal is issued by Curacao’s Gaming Control Board and will help players confirm that the website has an active license.
Keeping the Balance Is Crucial for Success
Finance Minister Javier Silvania shares that they had a very inclusive approach when drafting the new law. They consulted all the stakeholders to make sure LOK will consider different perspectives and not just serve one group. The country of Curacao, its citizens, the gambling industry and the players should all benefit from the reform.
Many license jurisdictions that go through a re-regulation fall into the trap of legislating too much, without the government listening to the industry or the players enough. This leads to fewer license holders and lower channelization rates as both the operators and the players search for more attractive solutions from other countries.
All the casinos that we spoke to agree that a good balance between regulations and operational freedom needs to remain. Mark Wellington, Rollino Casino’s Chief Compliance Officer, elaborates this point in his interview with Slotsoo: “One current challenge is maintaining a balance between fostering innovation and ensuring strict compliance with regulatory standards. Striking this balance is crucial to support a dynamic and competitive industry while safeguarding player interests.”
We wish Curacao good luck with its new start in 2024.