Curaçao is an island that used to form part of what was known as the Netherlands Antilles before its dissolution in 2010. It remains a territory of the Netherlands but one interesting aspect of Curaçao is that they also have the distinction of being considered a constituent country - a rarity among European Union nations. Of course Curaçao's distance from other European countries, situated just north of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea, may have something to do with this dual status.
Due to the fact that Curaçao is able to operate their own government, they have also been able to offer favourable conditions to Internet gaming companies, including a company tax rate of only 2% on net profits. The current system in place on the island is ultimately the responsibility of the Curaçao Ministry of Justice, which passes on responsibility for e-gaming licensing and regulation to four private master license holders. In practice the following master licensors appear to sell licenses to almost anyone who is willing to pay the fee:
- Gaming Curaçao (license 365/JAZ)
- Curaçao eGaming (license 1668/JAZ)
- Curaçao Interactive Licensing (license 5536/JAZ)
- AntillePhone (license 8048/JAZ)
The key point here is that despite what casinos often claim on their websites, they are not directly licensed, regulated, or vetted by the Curaçao government. The government of Curaçao does not directly license casinos at all.
Curaçao Licensing Requirements
Applying for a license in Curaçao all begins with a prospective operator filling out an application with one of the master license holders. Depending on the master licensor used, operators may have to submit identification and proof of the beneficial ownership of the operation. Once approval is gained, the operator is subject to fees that can range anywhere between USD $1000 and $7000 per month, at the discretion of the licensor, plus the aforementioned 2% company tax rate. That is pretty much it, and while the master licensors say all the right things on their websites about vetting applications, the reality is that it seems that just about anyone can get one of these sub-licenses if they have the money and the desire.
Complaints and Dispute Resolution
Despite what their public statements and supposed requirements for obtaining a gaming license would indicate, Curaçao takes little interest in player vs casino disputes or mediation. In fact, their official dispute resolution procedure inevitably consists of telling the player to sort it out directly with the casino. The result is that the quality of operator running casinos from Curaçao varies wildly. This is a major reason why we categorise Curaçao in the lowest class of online gambling licensing jurisdiction.
There are many tales of financial woe, managerial ineptitude, and outright criminality that have gone unpunished by the Curaçao authorities. Prime examples include Lock Casino and Poker where players were defrauded of millions of dollars before management shut down the site and disappeared with the money, the use of pirated games and ongoing hacking of websites by crooked operators such as Game Tech Group N.V., or the recent case of Betsoft Gaming where a player was cheated of a progressive jackpot win by so-called "buggy" game programming. The response of the Curaçao government or its master licensors to these sorts of incidents: crickets chirping.
No official mediation or dispute resolution options
If you do have a dispute with a Curaçao licensed operator, your options in terms of official help and or mediation are non-existent. Attempts to convince the master licensor to help are likely to prove fruitless as they simply aren't interested in player related problems. Master licensors AntillePhone (8048/JAZ) and Curaçao Interactive Licensing (5536/JAZ) don't even provide websites or any contact details that would allow players to contact them. Furthermore, uncovering the ownership behind sites operating out of the island can be a difficult challenge as the owners can be anywhere in the world, with most going to great lengths using complex anonymous shelf company schemes to hide their identity.
Unofficial dispute resolution channels
A local organisation that attempts to assist players in recovering funds stolen by crooked casinos is The SBGOK Foundation. It has engaged in litigation on behalf of players against rogue operators in Curacao, achieving success in some cases. While SBGOK has no official powers to enforce any form of regulation, they may be at least worth an attempt if you have a problem with a Curacao operator. Alternatively you can get in touch with us via our forums or our contact page and we'll try to help you out with further advice.