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Compliance Updates

Brace Yourselves: Curacao’s New Gambling Law Is at the Door

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Curacao is approaching the finishing line of its online gambling reform with the new law being sent to the parliament earlier this week. Markus Bjork at Slotsoo has been in touch with both the Ministry of Finance and several Curacao operators to find out how they feel about this big change. Do European license providers have a reason to feel threatened by Curacao casinos 2.0?

LOK Now Just Waiting for Parliament Approval

On December 19, Curacao’s Ministry of Finance informed that the new law has been officially submitted to the parliament. The National Ordinance for Games of Chance, commonly referred to as LOK (Landsverordening op de kansspelen), is expected to come into effect in the first half of 2024.

Finance Minister Javier Silvania, the front figure of the reform, shares his excitement about this historical moment: “We are very happy to reach this final stage. The submission of the LOK to Parliament is not just a procedural step but a leap towards transformative progress.”

No More Master Licenses or Middle Men

The current setup of the Curacao casino licenses is very unique, with four master license holders being in charge of giving licenses to individual casino operators and ensuring their compliance to the regulations.

This has resulted in big quality differences and if you were to ask ten European Union players how they feel about Curacao casinos you would get very varied replies. Another critique with the current system is that most of the financial gain goes to the four master license holders while the island of Curacao is left with light pockets.

LOK will put an end to master licenses and middle men and require all licenses to be applied directly from Curacao’s Gaming Control Board. This means more uniformed quality and better control. The new law will also require gambling companies to have physical presence on the island, creating new job opportunities for the locals.

The Curaçao casinos we interviewed all welcome the new setup. Spinwise (Tsars Casino) sees some hurdles but says it will be worth it in the long run: “The prohibition of sub-licensing by master licensees introduces a new financial dynamic for individual companies, albeit with associated fees. While adaptation to the new framework may pose short-term challenges, the long-term benefits are expected to outweigh these initial obstacles.”

The Curacao License Will Remain Tax Free

Curacao has been a popular license choice for casino entrepreneurs ever since its conception. Alpha Affiliates’ Chief Legal Officer Alexandra Shepelevich lists the three main benefits of the Curacao license as:

  • No tax on winnings
  • No restrictions on player nationality
  • Strong regulatory framework

Curacao will not try to change this recipe with the new law. The gross profit tax will stay at 0% for all license holders no matter how big or small the revenue is. This is a stark contrast to most licenses in Europe.

A common concern among Curacao operators is that the new system will cause a high barrier for entry, which some see as a positive thing. The new fees for a Curacao casino will be approximately €50,000 a year (annual license fee of €24,600 plus twelve monthly fees of €2,050 and yearly domain fees of €250 each with these numbers based on current ANG/EUR exchange rates).

Another strategy to keep unserious casinos away is the introduction of a digital seal, which will be made available on January 1, 2024. The digital seal is issued by Curacao’s Gaming Control Board and will help players confirm that the website has an active license.

Keeping the Balance Is Crucial for Success

Finance Minister Javier Silvania shares that they had a very inclusive approach when drafting the new law. They consulted all the stakeholders to make sure LOK will consider different perspectives and not just serve one group. The country of Curacao, its citizens, the gambling industry and the players should all benefit from the reform.

Many license jurisdictions that go through a re-regulation fall into the trap of legislating too much, without the government listening to the industry or the players enough. This leads to fewer license holders and lower channelization rates as both the operators and the players search for more attractive solutions from other countries.

All the casinos that we spoke to agree that a good balance between regulations and operational freedom needs to remain. Mark Wellington, Rollino Casino’s Chief Compliance Officer, elaborates this point in his interview with Slotsoo: “One current challenge is maintaining a balance between fostering innovation and ensuring strict compliance with regulatory standards. Striking this balance is crucial to support a dynamic and competitive industry while safeguarding player interests.”

We wish Curacao good luck with its new start in 2024.

Australia

ACMA Blocks More Illegal Offshore Gambling Websites

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has requested that Australian internet service providers (ISPs) to block more illegal offshore gambling websites, after investigations found these services to be operating in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.

The latest sites blocked include A Big Candy, Jackpoty and John Vegas Casino.

Website blocking is one of a range of enforcement options to protect Australians against illegal online gambling. Since the ACMA made its first blocking request in November 2019, 995 illegal gambling and affiliate websites have been blocked.

Over 220 illegal services have also pulled out of the Australian market since the ACMA started enforcing new illegal offshore gambling rules in 2017.

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Compliance Updates

MGA: Update to Process for Addition of New Game Provider/s

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MGA: Update to Process for Addition of New Game Provider/s
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The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) would like to notify all Licensees of some changes to the addition of new Game Providers notification process.  As from 1 August 2024, notifications of new Game Providers, submitted through the Licensee Portal via a ‘Technical – Change in Game Type/Provider’ application, need to be accompanied by the below documentation/information:

  1. The updated Key Technical setup and Essential Components documentation*.
  2. The updated Specifications of the Gaming System documentation*.
  3. A Declaration provided by a Key Person or a Director of the Licensee covering the following requirements:
  1. The formal name of the Game Provider, and the respective Authorisation Number (Licence Number/Recognition Notice Certificate Reference Number);
  2. The Services being offered by the Game Provider, including the Game Types and Verticals pertaining to the new games being offered;
  3. Any Jackpot details, including the type of jackpot that shall be offered, and the relevant jackpot policy if applicable;
  4. A confirmation that any relevant documentation has been updated, including the Business Risk Assessment (if applicable).**

If the Licensee shall be integrating with various Game Providers, a separate Declaration per Game Provider would need to be submitted, by uploading the various Declarations in the Enclosures page within the same application.  The Declaration/s should also include any further pertinent information to be notified to the Authority.  If the above information is not included within the application, such an application shall be deemed to be incomplete, and will be set to a one-time ‘Incomplete’ status.  Following this, unless the application is fully submitted within sixty (60) days, it will be closed off automatically and the Authority would not be able to process the new Game Provider/s.

Although the agreement(s) between the Licensee and the Game Providers are not required when a Declaration is submitted, the Authority shall still reserve the right to request the agreement(s) between the parties, if and when deemed necessary.

* If the integration with the third-party game provider(s) does not necessitate any changes to the technical documentation or to the gaming system specifications, the Licensee can submit a declaration attesting that no changes to the mentioned documentation will be required.

** In line with the Implementing Procedures, the Licensee is reminded to update the Business Risk Assessment whenever new game providers are added, based on the risk exposure, to determine how any additional related risks can be mitigated to an acceptable level following the integration.

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Asia

Fintechs in Kazakhstan Raises Concerns Over Proposed Gambling Regulation

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Fintech companies in Kazakhstan are urging greater scrutiny of a proposed law intended to regulate betting transactions in the country.

The submitted legislation, currently in its final reading, would form a monopoly entity, the Unified Accounting System (UAS), the firms said in a joint press release. The UAS would be used to determine market participants, process payments, maintain a single “electronic wallet” and make settlements with clients. A critical concern is that it could charge up to 1.5% in commissions on all market transactions, within a market where regulated transactions exceed KZT1.2tn ($2.6bn) annually.

Irina Davidenko, a spokesperson for Kazakhstan’s payments industry, commented: “The proposed legislation would be a step backwards for Kazakhstan, harming competition in the country’s vital payments sector and signaling to the outside world that necessary business reform is being driven by shadowy interests, rather than what’s right for industries and consumers.”

The proposal, partly billed as a public health move against problem gambling, resembles a previous initiative, the Betting Accounting Centre (BAC). It was shelved in 2021 after a scandal involving a deputy minister who was dismissed for accepting bribes from BAC lobbyists, according to the press release.

The lack of transparency on the UAS structure and ownership as outlined in the legislation is another aspect of the change that is seen by critics as troubling.

The reintroduction of a UAS model occurred as late as the second reading of the legislation. If passed by parliament, it will become law without the comprehensive impact analysis and scrutiny typical for such significant regulatory change.

Observers argue the new regulation duplicates existing regulatory functions already managed by Kazakh state bodies and was proposed without the cooperation of the National Bank of Kazakhstan. The central bank has previously developed its own reform proposal that avoids introducing a monopolistic entity.

Opponents further contend that the regulation could cause “significant economic damage”. National Bank of Kazakhstan representatives and the payments industry have sounded alarm bells, but the issues have not been adequately addressed, the press release added.

The concerned fintech and payment companies want the legislation to be reconsidered. They are advocating for it to be sent back to the lower house of the legislature for a full regulatory impact analysis and thorough examination to ensure that it does not adversely affect industry or the economy.

Ilya Efimenko, commercial director of the payment organisation PayDala, said: “I appeal to the Senators, who need to know the true purpose of why the UAS has made a comeback in the bill.

“This is a re-emergence of the ‘Betting Accounting Center’ (BAC), a strikingly similar entity that was withdrawn before, and behind which, as the deputy from the Amanat party Elnur Beisenbayev said, are the powerful forces of ‘Old Kazakhstan.’

“Before our eyes, a monopolist, a private operator, is being created. The emergence of monopolies such as the UAS threatens the principles of a Fair Kazakhstan. Now everything is being done to break the financial system of Kazakhstan, recognized by experts as one of the best in Central Asia.”

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