In a recent announcement, Javier Silvania, the Minister of Finance for Curaçao, emphasized the significance of the National Ordinance for Games of Chance (LOK), referring to it as a "safety net" against potential grey-listing. The LOK is set to bring about a substantial transformation in the gambling industry within Curaçao. In preparation for its implementation, the island's Gaming Control Board (GCB) initiated the license application portal on September 1st.
This week, the GCB welcomed Hilary Stewart-Jones as a new advisor, marking another step in this transitional period for the gambling market. The formal acceptance of license applications is scheduled to commence on November 15th. Successful applicants will receive interim Curaçao licenses, with an additional six months granted for the submission of requested documentation.
Minister Silvania highlighted the critical advantages of the LOK, underlining the looming risk of grey-listing if anti-money laundering (AML) systems are not adequately addressed. He cited the recent case of Gibraltar, which found itself on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list due, in part, to its status as a major gambling hub. Silvania explained, "AML is a key criterion of financial evaluations, one of which Curaçao will be subject to next year." He emphasized the genuine concern that Curaçao might face similar grey-listing issues due to insufficient AML legislation in the gambling sector.
Grey-listing, Silvania cautioned, could have serious repercussions, including restricted or prohibited trade with certain governments and reduced government revenues.
"We absolutely and categorically need to take the steps necessary to prevent grey-listing, and the LOK provides the safety net that we desperately need," Silvania emphasized.
Addressing concerns about potential disruptions, Silvania assured that the new legislative framework aims to enhance rather than disturb the current state of affairs in the gambling industry. He acknowledged the skepticism that often accompanies change, especially when it impacts established practices, but assured operators that the intention is to elevate the industry.
Turning to the economic impact, Silvania noted that the revenue generated from gambling in Curaçao does not align with the island's potential. Comparing Curaçao to Malta, he pointed out that in 2022, Curaçao only saw €250,000 in licensing revenues, while Malta reported €82 million in revenue for the same period.
"This contrast in numbers offers a sobering insight into the different trajectories and priorities of these two jurisdictions," Silvania commented.
Silvania also highlighted the potential benefits for employment in Curaçao once the new legislation is enacted. He expressed the government's intent to position Curaçao as a center of excellence in the gambling industry, paving the way for increased job opportunities and economic growth.
"The intent of our efforts to revitalize the legislative landscape is to develop Curaçao as a center of excellence in the gambling industry," he said. "This pushes the envelope for employment opportunities, and in fact, there are many individuals and businesses out there who have no idea of the opportunities that are coming their way."
By fLEXI tEAM