Advocates for regulatory reform

ACMA wrestles with rise of Curaçao-Licensed online gambling sites targeting Australian players

Reading time 1:33 min

Australia's telecommunications and media regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma), has been grappling with a significant challenge posed by the burgeoning presence of online gambling websites targeting Australian consumers.

Of particular concern is the notable number of these websites licensed in Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island known for its limited regulatory oversight in the online gambling industry.

Over the years, Acma has repeatedly urged authorities in Curaçao to take decisive action to prevent online casinos from specifically targeting Australian players. Despite these calls and ongoing discussions, the influx of these gambling platforms has persisted, prompting Acma to take proactive steps to blacklist over two dozen gambling websites operating out of Curaçao.

"Acma engages with overseas regulatory bodies for the purposes of assisting with our enforcement and disruption efforts against illegal services," stated an Acma spokesperson. "In relation to Curaçao, we have written to them about individual services licensed in their jurisdiction and about updates on the Curaçao regulatory framework."

This ongoing effort by Acma was prompted by a complaint to Curaçao's finance minister, Javier Silvania, which accused about 90 online casinos of persistently targeting Australian consumers in violation of Australian laws. Despite warnings issued, many of these websites have continued to operate, offering enticing bonuses and promotions to Australian players.

Curaçao's role as a hub for online gambling has raised concerns due to the lack of oversight and transparency in the licensing process. Currently, the island boasts four master gambling license holders, who grant sub-licenses to numerous offshore operators. Acma has emphasized the need for greater accountability and regulatory control in this process.

Efforts are underway in Curaçao to reform the online gambling industry, with the impending establishment of the Curaçao Gaming Authority. This new regulatory body aims to grant licenses based on a company's track record, with the goal of bringing greater integrity and oversight to the sector. Under the new regulatory regime, master license holders will no longer be permitted to sub-license for a fee.

"We take these breaches very seriously and will do all that is possible to stop them," stated the Curaçao Gaming Control Board in response to Acma's concerns. The board emphasized its commitment to ensuring fair and transparent gaming practices and protecting vulnerable players, including minors.

The Curaçao Gaming Control Board is set to assume greater control and oversight of licenses from 31 March.

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