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Curaçao’s master licence holders lack valid permits due to the improper renewal of their licences in 2007, Curaçao.nu has alleged.

The news outlet reports that the licences issued between 1996 and 2003 were set to expire in 2008. 

However, complications emerged in 2007 when the Justice Minister of the Netherlands Antilles at the time, David Dick, initially declined renewal requests. 

This action was reportedly influenced by pressure from the US, which disapproved of the online casinos operating from Curaçao.

At that time, Curaçao was part of the Netherlands Antilles. It became an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2010 after the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved.

Lack of formal approvals

According to Curaçao.nu, Minister Dick issued only “letters of agreement in principle” for permits that were due to expire, but these lacked the necessary formal approvals from the Council of Ministers, the Governor, and were not published in the newspaper Curaçaose Courant.

The media outlet suggests that this was contrary to Article 1, paragraph 1 of the National Ordinance on Offshore Hazard Games and Article 4 of the Publication Ordinance.

Consequently, the renewals were not legally executed, rendering subsequent extensions invalid.

Investigated licensees

Curaçao is in the final steps of overhauling its gambling regime under the supervision of Finance Minister Javier Silvania.

However, the country had long been operating a system under which a few private entities hold master licences from the Gaming Control Board and offer sub-licences to operators.

Curaçao.nu specifically examined the licences granted to Cyberluck and Antillephone in 1996, as well as those of Gaming Curaçao issued in 1998 and Curaçao Interactive Licensing in 2002. 

Additionally, it investigated the 2003 licence of Elite Turf Club, which was a permanent one on “autorenewal”. This licence was granted by Norberto Ribeiro, who at the time served as Justice Minister of the Netherlands Antilles.

A recent report from the Financial Times revealed that only around 20 individuals globally have active accounts with Elite Turf Club. 

This exclusive club caters to high-stakes bettors, providing them with rapid connections to various betting pools and personalised reports on their bets and outcomes. 

While the automatic renewal of Elite Turf Club’s gambling licence raises concerns about governance principles, as it hindered crucial government assessments, the news site highlighted additional issues.

Use of PSPs

Curaçao.nu reported that master licence holders turned to Payment Service Providers (PSPs) when local banks refused associations with gambling firms. 

This decision came after US correspondent banks threatened to sever ties following the US ban on offshore gambling.

However, the news portal now contends that this payment method contradicts the original gambling licences, which mandated maintaining player records and using reputable local or international banks to enable reporting of unusual transactions and facilitate money laundering investigations.

This failure to adhere to licensing prerequisites, combined with the absence of proper renewals, casts doubt on the legitimacy of Curaçao’s master licensees, according to the media outlet.

NEXT.io has reached out to Finance Minister Javier Silvania for comment. 

One-year extension 

Earlier this year, Curaçao granted its master licence holders a one-year licence extension until the country’s new gambling legislation enters into force.

Upon the enactment of the new gambling regulation, known as the LOK, master licence holders will automatically transition to the new regime, provided they comply with the policies and regulations within a specified time frame.

Meanwhile, from 1 November, applicants were able to register accounts via Curaçao’s new online regulatory platform. Starting 15 November, verified account holders could upload their applications.