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LOK provides “safety net” from grey-listing, says Curaçao minister

| By Marese O'Hagan
Javier Silvania, Curaçao's minister of finance, has outlined the benefits of the country's incoming gambling legislation, describing the National Ordinance for Games of Chance (LOK) as a “safety net” preventing grey-listing.
Curacao LOK

The National Ordinance for Games of Chance (LOK) will revolutionise how gambling is conducted in Curaçao. In preparation for the LOK, the island’s Gaming Control Board (GCB) opened the licence application portal on 1 September.

Earlier this week, Hilary Stewart-Jones was named as a new advisor to the GCB.

The market is currently in a transition period, with applications for licences being accepted from 15 November. Successful applicants will be issued with an interim Curaçao licence and given a further six months to submit requested documents.

Curacao minister of finance Javier Silvania
Javier Silvania, Curaçao’s Minister of Finance

Silvania noted the benefits of the LOK. He explained that Curaçao is at risk for grey-listing if anti-money laundering (AML) systems are not up to speed.

Grey list woes

Silvania noted that Gibraltar had been placed on the Financial Act Task Force’s (FATF)’s grey list, with its presence as a “major gambling hub” factoring into this decision.

“In particular the FATF criticised the government’s failure in ‘applying sufficient fines for anti-money laundering failings’,” he continued. “AML is a key criteria of financial evaluations, one of which Curaçao will be subject to next year.

“And let me be very clear about it, the likelihood of us being placed on the grey list because our lack of AML legislation within the gambling sphere is real, and it is worrying.”

If Curaçao is placed on the grey list, Silvania said the island could face a litany of issues. These include restricted or prohibited trade from certain governments and local companies facing affected government revenues.

“We absolutely and categorically need to take the steps necessary to prevent grey-listing and the LOK provides the safety net that we desperately need.”

Impact on the economy

The new regime aims to improve and not disturb the current state of play, Silvania explained, regarding those feeling unsure about the changes ahead.

“To those who have apprehensions about this legislation – I hear you,” he said. “Changes are always met with skepticism, especially when they impact long-established practices. However, for all the operators out there our intent is not to disrupt, but to elevate.”

Turning to the effects of the new system on Curaçao’s economy, Silvania said the benefits felt by the island and its population are not equal to the amount of revenue coming through it.

Comparing the island to Malta, he explained that Curaçao saw €250,000 (£216,643/$263,032) in licensing revenues in 2022. This was compared to the €82m reported by the Malta Gaming Authority.

“This contrast in numbers offers a sobering insight into the different trajectories and priorities of these two jurisdictions,” he added.

Benefits for work and employment

Opportunities for employment will be improved once the new legislation is enacted, Silvania continued.

“The intent of our efforts to revitalise the legislative landscape is to develop Curaçao as a centre of excellence in the gambling industry,” he said.

“This pushes the envelope for employment opportunities and in fact there many individuals and businesses out there who have no idea of the opportunities that are coming their way.”

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