The Australian online gambling regulator has written to and met with government officials from Curaçao regarding new law changes in the Dutch Caribbean country to clamp down on its huge online casino industry.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has also warned Curaçao about the more than 90 online casinos registered in the country that have been illegally allowing Australians to punt on their sites, despite being told by ACMA the casinos were in breach of Australian laws.
Australia is among several countries, along with the majority of US states, that ban its residents from using online casinos.
The online casino industry is a major money spinner for the Dutch Caribbean islands located off the coast of Venezuela. Only four master licences exist there, but offshore operators can have their casino registered via a sublicence by paying a fee to the master licence holder. There is limited transparency about the ownership of these master licences or the identity of the licensees.
Several of these operators target Australians. Of the 90 sites ACMA has complained about to Curaçao, there are groups that use Australian slang or iconic animals in their business names or promotional material. One site, banned in Australia but still operating, says at the top of its website: “G’day cobber”.
Australian-operated casino Stake.com is one of hundreds of entities that will be caught up in the changes to Curaçao law. Stake.com currently holds a sublicence in Curaçao from master licence holder Antillephone. (Stake.com is not related to the Australian share trading platform, Stake.) The casino group could benefit from any regime change, which is designed to improve transparency and oversight of licensed operators.
Recent communiqués between Australia and Curaçao, provided to this masthead following a Freedom of Information request, show that Australian authorities are increasingly frustrated with some groups targeting Australian users.
In late May, ACMA wrote to Curaçao’s Finance Minister, Javier Silvania, to complain about the lack of response from master licences over the more than 90 occasions the authority has reported groups for breaking Australian laws.
“In each case we have contacted the operator and relevant master licence holder regarding the contravention. As at date of this letter, these services continue to contravene the IGA [Interactive Gaming Act] by providing prohibited gambling services in breach of Australian laws,” the ACMA letter to Silvania said.
ACMA officials met with their counterparts from Curaçao in early June to address Australia’s complaint in the May letter.
According to notes of the meeting by ACMA, the new licensing regime will come into effect by the end of 2023. It will require current sublicence holders to apply for a licence to continue to provide services.
“[Curaçao’s gambling authority representatives] confirmed that contraventions by operators in other jurisdictions (such as Australia) would be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a licensee under the new regime,” the meeting notes said.
They added: “It will be mandatory for licensees to have in place dispute resolution mechanisms in place for affected customers, such as Australians.”
Curaçao government representatives told ACMA officials they would forward the list of the contravening operators to the relevant master licence holder.
Stake.com is estimated to be worth many billions of dollars and is the lead jersey sponsor for English Premier League team Everton. The gambling site blocks its service from use in Australia and has not been subject to any complaints from Australian authorities, unlike scores of operators with licences from the Caribbean island.
A spokesman for Stake.com said the group has actively engaged with Curaçao authorities regarding some planned regulatory changes.
“While we are awaiting the final announcement, we do not anticipate any significant operational impact on our business in the short or medium term,” the spokesman said.
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Source: Thanks smh.com