Australian Regulator Pleads with Curaçao Government to Tackle Online Casinos Targeting Aussie Players

The Australian regulatory body responsible for overseeing online gambling has been in communication and meetings with government officials from Curaçao to address recent legal changes in the Dutch Caribbean nation. The objective of these discussions is to regulate and control the extensive online casino industry operating within Curaçao.

Sources reveal that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has raised concerns with Curaçao regarding more than 90 online casinos operating within the country, which have facilitated unlawful online gambling for Australians. Despite previous warnings from ACMA about violating Australian laws, these casinos have continued to enable Australian gambling activities.

Australia, along with several US states, prohibits its residents from accessing and using online casinos for gambling purposes.

The Dutch Caribbean islands, located near Venezuela, reap significant benefits from the thriving online casino industry. While only four master licenses are available, offshore operators can acquire sublicenses by paying a fee to the master license holder. However, there is a lack of transparency surrounding the ownership of these master licenses and the identity of the sublicense holders.

Some of these operators specifically target Australian users. Among the 90 sites of concern to ACMA, certain groups incorporate Australian slang or iconic animals into their business names or promotional content to appear as au casino online. Despite being banned in Australia, one particular site continues to operate and prominently displays the phrase “G’day cobber” at the top of its website.

Sources indicate that Stake.com, an Australian-operated casino, will be among the entities affected by the recent changes to Curaçao law. Currently holding a sublicense in Curaçao from the master license holder Antillephone, Stake.com stands to benefit from these regulatory adjustments aimed at improving transparency and oversight for licensed operators in the casino industry.

Recent communications between Australia and Curaçao, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, highlight the growing frustration of Australian authorities towards groups that specifically target Australian users.

In late May, ACMA sent a letter to Javier Silvania, the Finance Minister of Curaçao, expressing concerns about the lack of response from master licenses in over 90 cases where violations of Australian laws had been reported.

According to ACMA’s letter to Silvania, both the operator and the relevant master license holder were notified of the violations. However, as of the date of the letter, these services continue to violate the Interactive Gaming Act (IGA) by offering prohibited gambling services that directly contravene Australian laws.

In early June, officials from ACMA held a meeting with their counterparts in Curaçao to discuss and address the issues raised in the May letter.

Based on the meeting notes, it has been confirmed that the implementation of the new licensing regime will occur before the end of 2023. Under this regime, current sublicense holders will need to apply for a license to continue providing their services.

The meeting notes also state that Curaçao’s gambling authority will consider violations by operators in other jurisdictions, including Australia when evaluating the suitability of a licensee under the new regime. Additionally, licensees will be required to establish dispute-resolution mechanisms for affected customers, including Australians.

Curaçao government representatives informed ACMA officials that they would share the list of operators involved in violations with the appropriate master license holder.

Stake.com, estimated to be worth billions of dollars, serves as the primary jersey sponsor for Everton, an English Premier League team. The gambling site restricts its services in Australia and has not faced any complaints from Australian authorities, unlike many operators licensed by Caribbean islands.

According to a spokesperson from Stake.com, the company is actively engaged in discussions with Curaçao authorities regarding planned regulatory changes. The spokesperson stated that they do not anticipate any significant operational impact on their business in the short or medium term while awaiting the final announcement.

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