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The Dutch minister of digitisation may consult on new changes to the LOK to bring it in-line with the government’s 2020 deal with Curaçao to clean up the gambling sector.

The National Ordinance on Games of Chance (LOK) was first tabled in the Curaçao Parliament in December.

The legislation aims to overhaul the Lesser Antilles island’s gambling licensing regime through greater oversight, a new regulator, and higher bars for entry.

In 2020, the Dutch government tied its Covid-19 relief package to commitments on several “structural reforms” in Curaçao, including an agreement to clean-up the gambling sector.

The island’s gambling regime had faced criticism in recent years for a lack of direct regulation due to a franchise licensing model as well as being a global source of unregulated gaming services.

Is the LOK in-line with the National Package agreement?

Now minister for digitisation and the former finance secretary Alexandra van Huffelen (pictured) has said government departments are looking into the extent to which their recommendations have been incorporated into the version of the LOK presented to parliament.

This includes both the Ministry of Justice and Security and the Temporary Work Organisation (TWO) charged with overseeing the island’s structural reforms.

“If necessary, I will consult with Curaçao to see what changes can still be made during the parliamentary process to bring the national ordinance into line with the agreements in the National Package and the adopted plan of action,” said van Huffelen.

The extent to which the LOK complies with the 2020 agreements between the Netherlands and Curaçao has become an important question in recent months.

This is due to heavy criticism that the LOK has faced during the legislative process. This includes from members of parliament, the Curaçao Bar Association, and the Advisory Council (RvA) which scrutinises proposed laws.

Running at 28,0000 words, the RvA’s opinion is one of the longest ever published by the body. It slammed the overall robustness of the proposed law and argued it should not be tabled in parliament in its present form.

As such, the island’s minister of finance Javier Silvania has come under fire from local media outlets and politicians for rushing through the legislation, in their view.

MP questions Curaçao licensing process

Despite the ongoing controversy around the bill, which has not yet been passed, the island’s gambling regulator the Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB) last week issued the first licence under the new regime.

This was for Rhino Entertainment Group entity White Star BV. The direct licence is designed to provide for better oversight than the previous model’s sublicensing system, in which operators faced only in-direct regulation.

According to the Curaçao Chronicle, member of parliament Steven Croes has now voiced concern over the regulator beginning to issue licences prior to the LOK being authorised by parliament.

The legislation was debated in parliament on 9 January, where MPs conveyed to the ministry it was not yet ready for approval, taking into account the RvA’s concerns.

As such, Croes has sent several new questions to the ministry:

Given that the LOK has not received approval, what legal grounds justify the issuance of the Gaming License to this local company?

Does the Minister have intentions to persist in granting licenses without the endorsement of the LOK?

With what objective did the Minister authorise this license?

What ramifications will be faced by this company or other entities if the LOK fails to secure approval from Parliament?

Is the Minister cognisant that granting this license has prompted numerous questions and misunderstandings within the sector, exacerbating existing confusion?

The MP has also reached out to the ministry for a copy of the licence.

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