Dutch lawmakers grilled the country’s outgoing government this week on Curaçao’s controversial online gambling regime.
Specifically, they wanted to know why 12,000 websites are allegedly permitted to offer unlicensed gaming to countries across the world, including the Netherlands.
The question has become even more pertinent since October 1 of this year. That’s when the Netherlands launched its own regulated online gambling regime after a decade of heavy legislative effort. This means the country is now very much a black market for offshore operators.
The figures on the number of rogue sites in Curaçao were supplied in a recent article by the Dutch investigative journalism site Follow the Money. The article also claimed that the tiny island in the southern Caribbean Sea accounted for some 40 percent of all global unregulated internet gaming.
Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker said he could not confirm the figures. But Curaçao was an autonomous country with its own gambling laws and regulations.
He pointed to negotiations between the two countries last year, where Curaçao agreed to clean up its act. This included tackling economic and financial crime and establishing an independent regulator for its online gaming sector.
Dekker said he expected some of these reforms to come into effect later this month.
Curaçao is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands but has been an independent state since 2010. It was a very early adopter of online gambling, issuing its first licenses in 1996.
In fact, they were it’s first and last. The government created just four master licenses.
The master licensees — Cyberluck Curaçao, Gaming Curaçao, Curaçao Interactive Licensing, and Antillephone — are able to grant sub-licenses to prospective operators at will. They also provide turnkey gaming solutions to help them get up and running.
Attracted to the island by tax breaks, sub-licensees are permitted to operate without any government oversight.
Not all operators licensed in Curaçao are bad actors. But those that are can thrive in a jurisdiction where oversight is lax.
Since Curaçao’s independence, the Dutch state takes only an advisory role in its affairs, although it can exert political pressure by threatening to withhold aid.
Curaçao’s promise to reform its online gambling sector came just as the Dutch government agreed to release the third tranche of a financial aid package to help soften the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The cabinet takes the concerns about illegal games of chance on Curaçao seriously, and is committed to limiting the illegal offer of games of chance from Curaçao,” said Dekker. “Curaçao is currently working on a step-by-step plan of action to limit and better regulate the supply of games of chance. As expected, this action plan will be adopted this month.”
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