As the international operators have concentrated their presence in a handful of territories with industry-friendly regulatory regimes, life in these point-of-supply jurisdictions has undergone significant changes. Here are some ways life has changed in these territories:
- Economic Growth: The concentration of international operators in these territories has led to a significant boost in their economies. The influx of investment and business activity has created jobs and stimulated economic growth, leading to increased prosperity for the local population. This may have resulted in improved infrastructure, better public services, and increased opportunities for education and employment.
- Cultural Diversity: The presence of international operators in these territories has also led to increased cultural diversity. As people from different countries and backgrounds come to these territories to work in the industry, it has led to a mixing of cultures and the development of cosmopolitan communities. This may have resulted in the availability of diverse cuisines, languages, and customs, enriching the local culture and creating a more globally connected society.
- Changing Demographics: The influx of international operators may have led to changes in the demographics of these territories. The demand for skilled workers in the industry may have attracted expatriates from other countries, resulting in a more diverse population with different ethnicities, languages, and lifestyles. This may have also put pressure on local housing markets and infrastructure, leading to changes in the urban landscape and living conditions.
- Regulatory Changes: The industry-friendly regulatory regimes in these territories may have led to changes in local regulations and laws. Governments may have enacted policies and regulations to attract international operators, such as tax incentives, streamlined licensing processes, and relaxed labor laws. This may have created a more business-oriented environment, with a focus on attracting foreign investment and fostering industry growth.
- Environmental Impact: The concentration of international operators in these territories may have also had an impact on the local environment. The increased industrial activity, such as extraction of natural resources or energy production, may have led to environmental concerns such as pollution, deforestation, or habitat destruction. Local governments may have implemented environmental regulations to mitigate these impacts, or local communities may have organized protests or advocacy efforts to protect the environment.
- Social Changes: The presence of international operators may have also brought about social changes in these territories. The introduction of new technologies, ideas, and lifestyles from different parts of the world may have influenced local customs, traditions, and social norms. For example, there may be an increased adoption of foreign languages, consumer preferences, or social behaviors. This may have resulted in both positive and negative changes, as local communities adapt to new influences while trying to preserve their own cultural heritage.
Overall, the concentration of international operators in territories with industry-friendly regulatory regimes has brought significant changes to these regions in terms of economic growth, cultural diversity, demographics, regulatory changes, environmental impact, and social changes. These changes may have both positive and negative impacts, and local communities and governments may need to carefully manage and adapt to these changes to ensure sustainable development and societal well-being.
The territories that have traditionally been home to dot.com operators, such as Malta, Gibraltar, and Curaçao, have been appealing due to their idyllic locations on tropical islands or the Mediterranean coast. These locations have flourished as thriving hubs for online gambling, thanks to favorable local laws. However, the landscape may be shifting in 2022, as several global point-of-supply jurisdictions have unveiled plans for significant changes.
As one jurisdiction makes changes to its regulatory regime, it may have a domino effect on other territories, as licensees seek the most favorable systems. This has created a sense of flux and uncertainty across all points of supply, with potential ramifications for the online gambling industry as a whole. The once-stable landscape of these territories is now facing potential upheaval as regulatory changes are being proposed and implemented.
The allure of living in these picturesque locations may be tempered by the uncertainty surrounding the future of online gambling in these territories. As local laws evolve, the landscape of the industry may shift, impacting the businesses and individuals that have made these territories their home. It remains to be seen how these changes will ultimately unfold and what the future holds for the online gambling industry in these once-favored territories.
Is Curaçao Facing an Exodus of Online Gambling Operators?
Curaçao, without a doubt, possesses the potential to reverberate its impact worldwide as a significant point-of-supply jurisdiction.
This Dutch Caribbean island is currently home to over 900 operators, with thousands of brands available.
However, the current regulatory landscape in Curaçao is unique, with gambling not being regulated by a government body, but rather by for private companies that hold “master licences” and issue sub-licences to operators.
This system, which puts the private sector in control, has been popular among operators seeking a quick and easy licence to accept customers globally.
However, significant changes may be on the horizon, as a bill to overhaul gambling regulations in Curaçao is currently being considered. If these reforms are enacted, it could result in strengthened money laundering laws and the requirement for operators to establish a local presence. Most notably, the master licence system may be abolished, granting the Curaçao government the authority to revoke licenses of non-compliant operators.
Given Curaçao’s reputation for leniency, these regulatory changes could prompt some licensees to leave the island. The country’s finance minister, Javier Silvania, does not seem overly concerned about this possibility. He stated that he has no issue with companies leaving Curaçao, as the island is not currently benefiting significantly from them in terms of revenue.
The potential exodus of operators from Curaçao could have far-reaching implications for the online gambling industry and the future regulatory landscape in this jurisdiction.
Gibraltar: A Dilemma of Point-of-Supply or Dual Licensing?
Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, is often mistakenly categorized as a point-of-supply market, but its Gambling Commissioner, Andrew Lyman, disagrees with this description. He highlights that over two-thirds of the 18 Gibraltar-licensed operators also hold licenses in Great Britain, making “dual licensing” a more accurate description of the regulatory regime. Gibraltar’s previous status as a point-of-supply jurisdiction became obsolete due to two significant events: Great Britain shifting to a point-of-consumption model in 2014 and the outcome of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Despite these changes, Gibraltar’s historical reputation as a point-of-supply market has helped it maintain a position in the current gambling industry. The favorable regulatory environment, along with low taxes and pleasant weather, have attracted operators to stay in Gibraltar. However, in recent years, Gibraltar has been undergoing reforms to its gambling laws in the post-Brexit era. These changes include a greater requirement for a local presence and tiered license fees based on revenue, as outlined in the new Gambling Act currently under consultation.
The new Gambling Act reflects Gibraltar’s efforts to avoid being grouped with other “dark grey” point-of-supply markets. The Act signals Gibraltar’s intention to position itself clearly and timely on the side of visible and regulated markets, rather than opaque and less reputable markets.
Focusing on European Markets: Malta’s Strategic Outlook
Compared to Gibraltar or Curaçao, Malta may appear to be a jurisdiction that has remained unchanged. However, recent updates to the Player Protection Directive by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) suggest otherwise.
The MGA has introduced new markers of harm that operators must monitor in their customers, as part of their responsible gambling rules. Despite these updates, Malta is not known for stringent enforcement measures. Kinga Warda, Chief of Policy and International Affairs at the MGA, acknowledges this perception, stating that their approach is less focused on deterrence and financial penalties, and more on collaboration.
However, the real risk to Malta’s stability may come from how other locally regulated jurisdictions in Europe deal with Maltese operations. Maltese operators have been confident in accepting customers from other EU countries passively. But the Netherlands’ “cooling-off” policy, where operators were ordered to block Dutch players for the first 18 months after the launch of legal online gambling, could pose a significant threat to Malta’s European point-of-supply model.
Warda further states that there are still some countries that are reluctant to align their regulatory frameworks with others, insisting on regulatory models that may not comply with EU law. The MGA is committed to protecting and supporting its legitimate licensees in maintaining operations across Europe, and will strongly advocate for their arguments while respecting the views of other countries.
How the ripple affect the markets?
While Curaçao, Malta, and Gibraltar are often in the spotlight, there are many other jurisdictions where operators host international operations. Changes in one jurisdiction can have a ripple effect across multiple markets.
Costa Rica has long been a popular choice for operators targeting the US market and remains an option. In Asia, Laos could emerge as a new player as the Philippine offshore sector faces challenges.
However, if operators leave Curaçao, perhaps no jurisdiction stands to benefit more than the Isle of Man, which was the first to embrace licensing for crypto gambling, a vertical that may be impacted by strengthened anti-money laundering (AML) rules.
“The Isle of Man has seen interest from operators currently licensed in Curaçao, and indications are that this interest will continue to grow in the coming months and beyond,” declared Abby Kimber, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Digital Isle of Man. And it’s not just crypto operators, fiat-only operators are also expressing interest.
But the Isle of Man does not aim to fill the niche of a low-scrutiny jurisdiction, as Curaçao has historically done. Kimber rejects that idea, stating, “The Isle of Man is not interested in a race to the bottom. The Isle of Man is interested in creating a compliant, well-regulated, and supportive environment for operators to function in. We understand that compliance comes with a cost that cannot be compromised solely to attract new business.”
Similarly, Alderney has also been mentioned as a potential beneficiary of any potential exodus from Curaçao. With a new executive director in place, Andrew Gellatly, the Channel Island could be well-positioned for a renaissance, having fallen out of favor during the online poker boom more than a decade ago.
Gellatly states, “We anticipate that there will be operators seeking to relocate. However, they must be willing to meet and comply with our stringent standards, and only then would we welcome them.” He further clarifies that Alderney, like the Isle of Man, has no intention of positioning itself as a lax jurisdiction.
“We are not aiming to fill that niche,” he explains. “If anything, Alderney is striving for the top. Our requirements encompass annual inspections, rigorous internal control standard inspections, and thorough reviews of key personnel. Any operators transitioning from Curaçao would be taking significant steps up in terms of compliance.”
Elevating the standard to a modest degree
And you can see how a pattern appears emerges.
While many regulators aspire to attract operators fleeing from jurisdictions undergoing reforms, eagerly welcoming their license fees, being perceived as the winner in a race to the bottom is not as desirable.
According to Warda, although there may be pressure for reduced scrutiny, most operators prefer not to be licensed in jurisdictions that are deemed disreputable.
“The industry has reached a level of maturity where it recognizes the benefits of being licensed in a reputable jurisdiction, not just for the companies themselves but especially for the customers,” she remarks.
It appears inevitable that operators will gravitate towards jurisdictions with the least resistance. If Curaçao is no longer the preferred low-scrutiny jurisdiction, another location will likely take its place.
Nevertheless, international bodies like the Financial Action Task Force, as well as the influence of larger countries with regulated markets, can exert some impact on the operations of point-of-supply markets.
Such increased scrutiny suggests that operators seeking offshore havens may need to earn their place in the sun.