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Curaçao Gambling Іndustry 2024

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Elena Sadovskaya, Managing Partner, Inteliumlaw

Elena Sadovskaya, Managing Partner at Inteliumlaw: Your Trusted Legal Advisor. With years of expertise, Elena leads our team in delivering top-notch legal solutions

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Overview of the Curaçao gambling industry

Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean Island operating as an integral country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, has been and till now remains a popular choice for startups and other companies to receive online gambling license due to it accessible regulatory thresholds, cost-efficiency, and simpleness of establishing a business.


Nevertheless, this jurisdiction also cannot be apart from the need of legislative developments and up to now Curaçao’s government is in process of revising its gambling laws, encompassing online gaming, to meet global standards and combat unauthorized gambling activities. This revision entails the creation of the Curaçao Gaming Authority, an independent supervisory entity, and an overhaul of existing licensing classifications.


Curaçao as a hub for online gambling operators


Throughout the years Curaçao has approved itself as a premier hub for online gambling operators, drawing businesses around the globe seeking favorable regulatory conditions and operational flexibility. This jurisdiction has all chances to remain a premier hub for online gambling operators since the latter can receive the following benefits from existing licensing regime:

  • All-in-One License: Curaçao offers a single that covers all forms of online gambling, including casinos, sports betting, and lotteries. However, this might change after enactment of National Ordinance on Games of Chance, as separate licenses for B2C and B2C activities are expected to be introduced.
  • Cost-Efficient: The Curaçao gaming license is relatively affordable in terms of application, issuance, and maintenance fees.
  • Global Reach: With a Curaçao gaming license, operators can cater to a global audience, although certain jurisdictions may be restricted.
  • Tax Benefits: Curaçao boasts a beneficial tax regime for online gambling operators, typically offering a zero-tax rate on gaming revenues.
  • Flexible Technical Requirements: While it is essential to ensure fairness and security, Curaçao’s technical requirements for gaming systems are more lenient than in some stricter jurisdictions.

 

Licensing of online gambling in Curaçao


To understand the Curacao gaming license changes in full it is worth having insight on how licensing functions were transmitted among different Curaçao authorities and entities throughout near time periods.


Preconditions to regulatory shift


Before the commencement of the recent regulatory changes, Curaçao gambling licenses came in two forms: the master license and the sub-license. Holders of the master license had the authority to both offer a broad range of gambling services and bestow sub-licenses to others private companies. The license issuance is governed by the National Ordinance on Offshore Games of Hazard (Landsverordening buitengaatse hazardspelen, P.B. 1993, no. 63) (NOOGH). The sub-license allowed its holders to engage in a comprehensive suite of gambling activities, encompassing sports betting, slot machines, table games, and RNG-centric games. Its validity extends as long as the linked master license remains valid.


There were, and currently are, four master license holders, who, since 1996, have received the government’s authorization to grant licenses:

 

  • Antillephone N.V. License #8048/JAZ
  • Curacao Interactive Licensing N.V. (CIL) License #5536/JAZ
  • Cyberluck Curacao N.V. (also known as Curacao-eGaming)License #1668/JAZ
  • Gaming Curacao License #365/JAZ

 

The current state of Curaçao’s online gambling license


Existing license framework can be named transitional between previous license conditions and renewed and strengthened license framework. This period can be described as preparation for the creation of the Curaçao Gaming Authority and new license requirements.


Under this transitional framework gaming licenses can be issued only by Curaçao Gambling Control Board (GCB) and not by four master licenses holders as it was before. From November 15, 2023, the GCB started accepting and processing online gaming license applications from operators that wish to conduct their business under Curaçao offshore gaming license.


Simultaneously, a significant number of operators – in practice referred to as sub-licensees – are currently operating under one of the licenses granted to four of the master license holders on the basis of the NOOGH and in order to continue their business under such license such operators must be registered through GCB portal.


Any sub-licensee wishing to continue operating in Curacao but has not applied for a direct license prior to established period, can only continue operating under their sub-license until the master license expires or when the new license framework enters into force, whichever date is sooner.


New license framework


The government of Curaçao is currently in the process of realizing a complete reform and modernization of its (online) gambling legislation through a new law that will be named the National Ordinance on Games of Chance (Landsverordening op de kansspelen (LOK)). In anticipation of the entry into force of the LOK, the gaming license function were transferred to the GCB under condition that if operator obtained a direct license from the GCB under the current law, prior to the LOK entering into force will, according to the current draft of the LOK, such license will automatically be converted to a provisional license when the law enters into force. It is planned that the GCB will be granted some new powers and will continue to exercise its powers under a new name: the Curaçao Gaming Authority.


Up to now LOK has been drafted and is at the stage of consideration and discussions within the legislative authority.


Simultaneously, the Curaçao government is considering the possibility to temporarily exempt from the new legislation operators who, at the time that the new law enters into force, offer remote gaming under a license granted under the NOOGH so that they can temporarily continue to operate during this period without needing to apply for a license immediately.


Regulatory framework


Currently, the main Curacao gambling laws that establish rules for receiving a gambling license and conducting a gambling business under such a license are as follows:

 

  • National Ordinance on Offshore Games of Hazard (Landsverordening buitengaatse hazardspelen, P.B. 1993, no. 63) (NOOGH): NOOGH generally set forth the necessity of licensing to conduct offshore games of hazard business and defines the main state body responsible for issuance of gaming license or/and delegation of this function to other authorities.
  • National Decree supervisor identification when rendering services gaming sector (Landsbesluit toezichthouder identificatie bij dienstverlening kansspelsector, LB van 28 januari 2019, no. 19/0282); and the National Decree supervisor unusual transactions gaming sector (Landsbesluit toezichthouder ongebruikelijke transacties kansspelsector, LB van 28 januari 2019, no. 19/0283): Under these pieces of legislation the Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB) were tasked with the AML/CFT supervision of the gaming sector operating in and from Curaçao.
  • National Ordinance on identification when rendering services (Landsverordening identificatie bij dienstverlening (LID), PB 2017, no. 92); and the National Ordinance on the reporting of unusual transactions (Landsverordening melding ongebruikelijke transacties (LMOT), PB 2017, no. 99): These National Ordinances establish set of rules for gambling businesses that concern AML/ KYC measures.
  • Conditions for Curaçao Online Gaming License.

 

Who are the regulators?


As of November 15, 2023, GCB became the only governmental body empowered to issue online gambling license under the current Curaçao laws. At the same time, the LOK will make transformation of GCB into Curaçao Gaming Authority and grant the latter some new powers in field of licensing online gambling.


Previous four master license holders cannot issue sublicense and consequently sublicensees can only continue operating in Curacao under their sub-license until the master license expires or when the LOK enters into force, whichever date is sooner unless such sublicensees have not applied for a direct license before April 30th, 2024.


What are the different types of Curaçao licenses?


Up to now, one Curaçao license covers all forms of online gambling, including casinos, sports betting, and lotteries, and it is a key advantage of the Curaçao as gambling hub.


However, this might change after enactment of LOK as separate licenses for B2C and B2C activities are expected to be introduced.


What do I need to apply for a Curaçao Gaming License in 2024?


If you plan to move on with obtaining the license with GCB, the process in general includes the following steps.


Initial pre-check of the project applying for the license


On this stage, our company in cooperation with the regulator will perform initial pre-check of the information about the future online gambling projects and its owners. We must ensure that the client has a good reputation, was not involved in the illegal activity and possess transparent source of funds and wealth in order to run gambling business.


Incorporation of a company in Curacao


For those eyeing a Curaçao gaming license, the further step is to establish a legal entity within this jurisdiction. The optimal type of legal entity for such a license hinge on several criteria including operational scale, governance framework, protection against liability, tax implications, and regulatory mandates.


License obtaining


Once you have registered Curaçao company, license application to Curacao gambling authority can be submitted. The licensing process can span from up to 3 months, assuming you have presented a comprehensive application with all necessary documents. Once the license is received, your company will be listed in the Curacao gaming license register.


Incorporation a Cyprus payment agent company


For Curaçao online gambling companies, establishing a payment agent company in Cyprus can be a strategic move. Over time, offshore companies in Curaçao have faced challenges in accepting online payments due to increased regulatory oversight and their classification as ‘high risk’. The capacity of any operation to accept payments is restricted in certain jurisdictions. Many payment service providers halt card transactions from regions demanding a local license. Since you must process payments on your site for users to access services, having a payment processing agent is crucial.


Opening bank/EMI accounts


Once you have a licensed Curaçao company with Cyprus payment agent, you can apply for opening accounts with banks or electronic money institutions.


AML requirements


A crucial point in receiving a gambling license in Curaçao is the necessity to comply with applicable AML/KYC laws. Mostly, it refers to having in place policies and procedures that regulate the matters of customer identification and verification, player account and fund management, cash transactions, player account suspension and closure.


Under applicable AML/KYC laws the applicant is obliged to:

 

  • conduct customer due diligence and confidentially keep record of information pertaining to the individual’s identification;
  • cooperate with relevant authorities, including provide them with the requested information pertaining to the customer due diligence;
  • monitor and examine business relationship;
  • appointing a unit responsible for compliance with relevant AML/KYC laws;
  • report the FIUs on unusual transactions etc.

 

Market Trends and Growth Factors


As Curaçao is a worldwide gambling hub, this jurisdiction can observe some trends that is directly inherent to gaming operators acting under GCB license. We have made a general forecast based on the trends of the last two years: 

 

  • Growth in use of innovative technologies: Curaçao gambling industry participants up to now more often make an integration of cutting-edge technologies, such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies, into their platforms or websites to enhance security, transparency, and customer experience.
  • Permanent increasing of the game assortment: Casinos will invent new and exciting ways of entertainment, including new types of games, virtual reality, sports betting, and other innovations.
  • International Expansion: With its solid reputation and established infrastructure, Curaçao-licensed operators have the potential to expand into new markets, both in the Caribbean and beyond. Curaçao’s strategic location and legal advantages make it a preferred base for international expansion.
  • Regulatory Improvements: To maintain its status as a reputable licensing jurisdiction, Curaçao is expected to continually enhance its regulatory framework. This will further encourage the industry’s growth while maintaining high standards of security and fairness.

 

Challenges and Regulatory Concerns


Creation of new licensing framework with establishment of new respective body, the Curaçao jurisdiction may face some challenges, like ones mentioned below.

 

  • Capacity of a Professional Gaming Authority: An essential consideration is whether the gaming authority has the necessary resources and expertise to manage potentially hundreds of licensees. As a result of the dynamic and rapid expansion of the gaming industry, the regulatory body must be adequately prepared to supervise, control, and implement the new regulations.
  • Financial Consequences: The cost of license is one of the most aspects of the new framework, which may define the future and attractiveness of Curaçao for operators. An approximately sum of 61,000 EUR is now required annually for operating under the current Curaçao licenses, and it represents a substantial financial burden.
  • Administrative Difficulties: In order to ensure strict adherence, the newly implemented regime mandates comprehensive policies and procedures. It is mandatory for operators to exhibit resilient mechanisms that ensure equitable competition, prevent fraudulent activities, and promote responsible gaming. Complying with these specifications is a complex and time-consuming process that demands substantial investments of both resources and effort.

 

Opportunities for Investors and Operators


Notwithstanding ongoing changes in gambling license framework, Curaçao still remains and will continue to remain a great jurisdiction for conducting there online gambling business due to its well-developed regulatory framework, overseen by Curaçao authority, and favorable tax regime, which allow investors to maximize their profits and minimize regulatory hurdles. At the same time, the investors and operators can, due to Curaçao gaming license, carry out their business under on international market.

FAQ

A Curacao online gambling license is a permit issued by the Government of Curacao (or entities authorized by the Government of Curacao) that allows businesses to legally operate online gambling platforms. It is one of the most popular licenses due to its cost-effectiveness and relatively straightforward application process.

Starting online gambling business under Curaçao Gaming License will bring your business many benefits, including cost-effectiveness (as compared to EU licenses), global reach and flexible complaince requirements.

Under the current license framework, GCB is empowered to issue an online gaming license and to define conditions for granting this license. Currently, in comparison with master license framework, you need to pay a higher license fee and comply with License Conditions set forth by GCB. In near future Curaçao government plans to make transformation of GCB into Curaçao Gaming Authority and grant the latter with some new powers in field of licensing online gambling, consequently it can lead to creation of new license rules.

To receive a gambling license in Curaçao, you should incorporate an entity in Curaçao and be prepared to pass through license application process with Curacao gambling commission, during which you should pay an application fee, disclose some of your personal details to the GCB and provide the latter with information on gaming software providers you plan to use in your business.

It is realistic to complete the whole online casino license process within 2-3 months, however the process might be delayed due to different factors (such as quality of the project and application, number of shareholders etc.).

Taking into account only stages of applying for and renewal of online gaming license, you should pay annual license fee of 120,000 ANG (Approximately 61,700 EUR). But you also should encounter operating costs, like the cost of incorporation of the company in the Curaçao, concluding contracts with your software providers etc.

Therefore, Curaçao is a great choice of jurisdiction for conducting business related to proposing your gaming services in different countries, and notwithstanding on planned gaming license conditions changes will remain such a great jurisdiction for making offshore gaming business from it. If you wish to receive gambling license under current conditions and having such license automatically converted to a provisional license when Lok enter into force have a contact with us and we will be glad to consult you and to accompany your wishes on each stage.

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