Curacao is a tiny island-state in the Southern Caribbean, also known as the Dutch Caribbean or previously the Netherlands Antilles. The country was one of the first places in the world to create an online gambling regulator and remains a popular jurisdiction with many online casinos today.
Many of the casinos currently operating with a Curacao license have also chosen to position their offices on the island because of its attractive tax laws alongside the relatively cheap and fast licensing procedure offered by the Curacao Gaming Control Board (GCB).
It’s easy to see the attraction; say you wanted to set up a new online casino, sportsbook, or poker room yourself, you could purchase a so-called “master” gaming license from the GCB for as little as $34,000 (US) in setup costs and $5,600 per month in ongoing monthly license fees for the first two years. After the two-year fixed-rate period ends, the GCB is willing to negotiate on the terms of any new deal according to the profit and revenue figures of each licensee.
The GCB has been criticised in the past for its poor commitment to player happiness and satisfaction, with some players accusing the organization of being nothing but a “rubber stamp” that is only interested in collecting license fees. This description is probably over the top and unfair to the GCB, but it is certainly true that this is a very operator-friendly licensing body; the organisation certainly does not have the teeth of regulators such as the UKGC or MGA.
We said earlier that Curacao was one of the first places in the world to create an online gambling regulator and we really meant it – the first legislation aimed at setting up the GCB was passed by the government of Curacao all the way back in 1993. The Gaming License Authority was finally created in 1996, just as the earliest known online casinos were brought online. It’s fascinating to wonder who came up with the idea for a regulator as early as 1993 – they were undoubtedly years ahead of their time.
After the authority began to issue its first few licenses to web-based sportsbook and casinos there was a great deal of fanfare from the online gambling community. Online casinos who had previously struggled to convince players of their legitimacy were finally able to provide a degree of assurance that they and their games could be trusted. Whether that was true or not in many cases is debatable, but this didn’t matter to online gambling company’s who soon saw an explosion in both player numbers and revenues as the concept of a “licensed” online casino began resonating with early adopters and hardcore gambling fans.
Most countries have laws that force any business acting as a gambling operator to obtain a license before offering their services to players. In many cases, the wording of these laws was not intended to be used in this way; the “license” spoken of in the text of the legislation was intended to refer to the countries own licensing body. Nevertheless, the wording of the text created a loophole which online gambling businesses could exploit just by holding a license from a regulator such as the GCB.
Today, it has been almost three decades since the GCB was first dreamed up by the government of Curacao. The organization is thought to be a substantial source of revenue for the island, which suggests that there must be a minimum of several hundred companies currently operating with a GCB gaming license.
The GCB was officially founded in 1999 as a successor to the previous Gaming License Authority. Its priority was to ensure regulatory oversight of the land-based casino industry on the island, but the organisation soon switched focus to becoming a regulator for entire gaming industry.
Many of the criticisms levelled at the GCB as an online gambling regulator come from the early years of the organisation; the Curacao Gaming Control Board of today is far more interested in player complaints, responsible gaming, and effective operator oversight.
In 2017, the GCB updated its objectives to include several new forms of gambling which had sprung up during the last few years – it now had the ability to grand, amend, and revoke licenses for lotteries, charity bingo, and “bon ku ne” gaming.
The most recent focus of the GCB has been to crack down on so-called AML/CFT (Anti Money Laundering & Financing of Terrorism) abuse by operators and players under its remit. With this change, the GCB now has stated objectives which match those of all other major online gambling regulators worldwide.
The online gaming companies who operate with a license from Curacao are usually targeting players in nations where this no domestic licensing authority organised by their government. The GCB does not have the ability to fine their licensees in the same way that a domestic licensing authority might do, but they can revoke or suspend the licenses they have granted when a licensee fails to meet their obligations under the terms of that license.
Here are a few examples of notable actions taken by the GCB:
Article by Chris Howlett
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