The government of Curacao caused waves when it announced it would overhaul its online gambling licensing regime, widely considered one of the most liberal and accessible in the world. This led many operators to feel unsure and insecure about what the future holds. But at the start of 2023, there is little clarity around what will happen and when as consultations and discussions with lawmakers continue.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Dutch government told Curacao that in order to receive funds to help weather the storm, it must commit to a number of key reforms, including to its online gambling regime. The current rules mean that four master licenses are issued to private entities with the right to issue operating licenses to companies and entities running online gambling sites.
This system is liberal, accessible, and low-cost and led to Curacao becoming one of the leading iGaming jurisdictions in the world. But minimal requirements and not much in the way of scrutiny or supervision led to concerns that the system was being abused.
The government of Curacao then drafted a number of changes.
- Creating the Curacao Gaming Authority to supervise and oversee all licensing and gambling activity in the country;
- Issuing both B2C and B2B licenses;
- A change in licensing fees including a EUR 4000 application fee, EUR 12,000 yearly fees, and a monthly levy of EUR 250 per URL;
- The appointment of at least three local employees into ‘key positions’;
- Increased anti-money laundering and monitoring processes.
Any operator holding a current Curacao license would have the opportunity to convert it into a license under the new regime over 12 months. During this period, they can align with the new rules or seek to license elsewhere. In 2022, the government started the process of transitioning existing license holders to the new rules, but as of January 2023, it is not known precisely when the new rules will come into force.
At the end of last year, the government announced the new bill would be presented to parliament in February of this year. But, they noted that this deadline could be subject to delays caused by consultations with key stakeholders. Sure enough, at the start of January, Curacao authorities stated there was indeed a delay, but no new deadline was announced.
They simply stated that the relevant entities and departments are still waiting for a new schedule from the Ministry of Finance. It added that a new timeline, including steps leading up to the enforcement of the law, was under discussion and would be shared with the Dutch government as well.
“In accordance with an agreement between the minister of finance of Curaçao and the minister of the legal protection of the Netherlands, official consultations will take place in January about the progress of the [gaming bill],” it said.
Note, although the Curacao Minister of Finance has stated it will be Q2 when the law comes into effect, we believe it will more realistically be Q4 or Q1 2024 at the very earliest.
What does this mean for you?
Theoretically, for those with an existing Curacao gambling sub-license, it will be necessary to start moving over to the new regime or consider licensing elsewhere. The first step in this process is to contact Fast Offshore to see what your options are and what needs to be done. If you want to stay in Curacao, you need to abide by the new rules, a process that requires expert assistance.
Fast Offshore has been working in Curacao since the iGaming regime was first launched, and we are experienced in all matters relating to the local regulatory environment. Our experience means we can help and guide you through the process from start to finish, even during this period of uncertainty.
Our team can help with corporate structuring and company incorporation, licensing, payments, compliance, and all ongoing maintenance. Furthermore, we can provide in-depth advice on the jurisdiction and other offshore options.
To find out more about Curacao as an online gambling jurisdiction now and what lies ahead, simply contact a member of our team here.