Curaçao will start issuing direct licences to gambling operators and will hold them accountable to internationally recognised standards from 1 September.

Finance minister Javier Silvania revealed Curaçao’s decision to expedite the regulatory reform process today (22 June) during iGaming NEXT Valletta 23.

Silvania said he has become increasingly aware of “troubling corporate behaviour” in recent months that warrants “immediate action”.

Curaçao first announced its intention to overhaul the regulatory regime for the iGaming industry and abolish the current system of master and sub-licences last summer.

The new law, called the National Ordinance on Games of Chance (LOK), is currently progressing through the parliamentary process.

Earlier this month, the LOK was presented to the country’s Council of Advice, the final step before presenting it to parliament.

While he is satisfied with the progress, he said “lax practices within gambling operations, particularly concerning AML measures, fraud prevention and player protection” can no longer be tolerated.

New standards

Therefore, Silvania said he has directed the Gaming Control Board (GCB), the current regulator, to begin implementing and upholding the new standards.

The GCB will begin issuing new licences to operators under the existing legislation, with a plan to transfer these licences into the new regulatory framework once it is enacted.

To ensure a smooth transition for existing operators willing to adopt the new regime, the government will allow for “uninterrupted business operations”.

The GCB is set to launch a dedicated portal for operators to register, facilitating the process of obtaining a direct licence.

“It pains me to hear that Curaçao licences have been labelled as ‘quick and easy to obtain’, accompanied by ‘lesser regulations’ and ‘lax monitoring’ compared to other jurisdictions,” Silvania said.

However, Silvania stressed that “this sentiment will be unequivocally reversed through the new legislation”.

Going forward, the finance minister said Curaçao “wants to know who owns the businesses operating from within our borders by conducting appropriate and consistent levels of due diligence”.

He added: “We require transparency regarding the source of funds flowing into our country, and we insist that operators adhere to legislation that aligns with reputable jurisdictions and, at the very least, meets the minimum requirements of international laws and guidance on anti-money laundering.

Lastly, Curaçao will “demand robust player protection and data security”.

Regulatory cooperation

The LOK, which includes the establishment of a completely new regulator body known as the Curaçao Gaming Authority, will not only prevent but also mitigate any unwelcome and unlawful activities, according to the minister.

This will ensure that Curaçao would no longer be known as the “red-headed step-child” of the gambling industry, he stressed.

Silvania also pledged close cooperation with other regulatory authorities around the world.

“By collaborating with and working alongside other jurisdictions, we ensure a level playing field for operators and suppliers, all while safeguarding the interests of players and preserving the integrity of the gaming industry as a whole,” he concluded.  

Silvania highlighted that the majority of Curaçao-licensed operators “uphold integrity and adhere to best practices”, but the country can no longer overlook the fact that some have tarnished our nation’s reputation”.

The Gambling Commission has imposed a £442,750 penalty on online betting operator TonyBet for social responsibility, AML and transparency failings.

In addition to the penalty, TonyBet will have to undergo a third-party audit to assess whether it is effectively implementing its AML and social responsibility requirements.

The Gambling Commission said social responsibility failures included failing to identify and interact with customers who may be at risk of gambling-related harm.

AML breaches included failing to conduct adequate risk assessments of the business being used for money laundering and terrorist financing, and failing to ensure that appropriate policies, procedures and controls were in place to prevent the same.

With regards to the Gambling Commission’s judgement on whether the operator had “fair and transparent terms”, several further failings were identified.

Gambling Commission executive director of operations Kay Roberts: “Not only does this case illustrate our drive to clamp down on anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures, but also highlights action we will take against gambling businesses who fail to be fair and open with customers.”

Unfair terms found on TonyBet’s website included that the operator could request identification documents for “all withdrawals,” without having insisted on the same checks earlier in the business relationship. 

This, the Gambling Commission deemed, had the potential to hamper customer withdrawals but not deposits.

Winnings could also be confiscated from customers who failed to provide AML documentation within 30 days.

Finally, accounts with TonyBet were considered dormant after six months of inactivity, while Gambling Commission rules state that accounts can only be considered dormant after a full 12 months of inactivity.

Kay Roberts, executive director of operations at the Gambling Commission, said: “Not only does this case illustrate our drive to clamp down on anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures, but also highlights action we will take against gambling businesses who fail to be fair and open with customers.”

TonyBet was established in 2011 and is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission and the Estonian Tax and Customs Board. The brand’s Lithuanian operations were acquired by Betsson in 2016.

The penalty was the second six-figure settlement enforced by the regulator in as many days. Yesterday (17 January), BetConstruct’s B2C brand VBET was slapped with a £337k regulatory settlement, once again for safer gambling and anti-money laundering breaches.