If you play online casinos, chances are you’ve seen the name Curacao at some point, and you may also have wondered where exactly Curacao is and what it has to do with casinos?
Curacao is one of a number of islands in what used to be known as the Netherlands Antilles, until its dissolution in 2010. You can find it on a map not far off the coast of Venezuela, next to Aruba. It may geographically small, but Curacao has become a significant player in the online casino world. This speck on the map is in fact home to one of the casino industry’s oldest regulatory bodies, that has been operating since the beginning of the online revolution.
History of the Curacao License Authority
Curaçao was one of the first territories to offer online casino licences, back in 1993, a year before Antigua, joined the gambling industry. But it wasn’t until 1996 that the island began to make a mark with the formation of the e-Gaming License Authority.
As online gaming became increasingly popular, Curacao updated their regulatory structure, handing the responsibility for regulating online gambling to the e-Gaming License Authority in 2002. At the same time the Curacao Internet Gaming Association was created to make sure that all gaming operations based on the island follow the rules and guidelines on operating a responsibility business and protecting players. The e-Gaming License Authority is now known simply as Curacao eGaming.
A number of online casino companies that will be known to New Zealand players have chosen to license their operations through Curacao as it offers some of the world’s most favourable tax laws as well as a fairly quick and cheap licensing process. The island levies a tax of only 2 percent on profits and does not make it difficult for new businesses to start to operate within the Curacao jurisdiction.
The island also appeals to operators because of the simplicity of its gambling laws. Gambling companies don’t need to apply for separate licenses for various activities. Whether they intend to run an online casino, sportsbook, or combination of the two, operators are only required to obtain one license. As well as the licensing service, Curacao eGaming also offers technical and financial support for online gambling companies, including help with administration, private cloud servers and dedicated services.
The process of obtaining a license from Curacao eGaming is a lot more straightforward than for some of the world’s other major licensing bodies, such as the UK Gambling Commission or the authorities of Gibraltar or Malta. Whereas the fees for applying for licenses in some of the stricter jurisdictions can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, a Curacao eGaming master gaming license can be obtained for around $34,000 in set-up fees followed by a monthly fee of $5,600 for the first two years. After this initial period, operators are allowed to negotiate their own deal with the Curacao authorities.
Any operator that obtains a master licence can then grant sub-licenses to other operators, although the master licence holder will be held accountable for all of the activities of the sub-license holders. Some companies specialise in obtaining master licenses and then offering a range of packages including business licences, sub-licences, and hosting. Consequently, it can be difficult to establish whether a particular online operator holds a master licence, sub-licence or has any other kind of status with Curacao eGaming.
It would be fair to say that Curacao does not have the best reputation when it comes to the regulation of the online gambling companies operating within its jurisdiction. Compared to most other well-known jurisdictions, the barriers to entry in Curacao are extremely low. Pretty much any company or individual with sufficient finance to pay the license fees and a reasonably legitimate online site can get through the vetting process.
For this reason, New Zealand players are usually advised to be wary of using casinos that are licensed in Curacao, as the license itself carries less weight than those issued by more highly regarded authorities. It is not unheard of for Curacao-licensed casinos to disappear with players’ money or engage in other disreputable practices. And since Curacao eGaming has not had a policy of intervening in the case of disputes, players who use their licensed casinos are relatively unprotected in the event of any problems. It is notable that, unlike a number of other jurisdictions in the Caribbean, Curacao is omitted from the UK Gambling Commission’s White List of trusted, reliable regulatory authorities.
That does not mean that you can’t trust any casino licensed in Curacao. There are many reputable and well-run casinos working under their jurisdiction. But the best approach to Curacao-based sites is to look for other ways to verify their reputation, perhaps by seeking out player reviews. Unlike a license from Malta, Gibraltar or the UK, a license from Curacao does not automatically indicate that the site is reputable.
Signs of Improvement
It is also fair to note that Curaçao eGaming have been making attempts in recent years to improve their less than perfect reputation. This is due partly to the feedback of customers and reviewers, but is also down to the fact that the islands officially became a constituent part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the time that the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved in October 2010. This seems to have produced additional pressure on Curacao eGaming and it is likely that their regulatory framework will be tightened in years to come.
Curacao eGaming offers a business-friendly environment for online casino operators, but unfortunately this does not crossover into offering an equally friendly jurisdiction for players. That does not mean that New Zealand online gamers should avoid Curacao-licensed casinos, but it does mean that, in the short term at least, you should take care before playing at one of these sites and seek additional reassurance that the operator is legitimate.