Online gambling paradise Curaçao: free games for 30 years

Several online casinos on Curaçao are owned by Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian owners, while there is no effective government oversight to prevent sanctions evasion or money laundering. This is according to studies conducted by Platform Investico, Argos and De Groene Amsterdammer in Curaçao’s online gambling sector.

Many billions

Curaçao is a global player in online gambling with thousands of online casinos. The online gaming halls are worth billions, but the sector is virtually unregulated. For example, there is no state oversight and the Curaçao government does not know who is behind the gaming companies. This makes the sector very sensitive to money laundering and evasion of sanctions. Online casinos are often used by the Italian mafia, criminal Russians and the Hague underworld, who launder their criminal money with online gambling.

‘Sublicensees’

It is not the government of Curaçao, but a handful of private companies, that decides who gets admitted into the online gambling market. Since the 1990s, they have been giving ‘sub-licenses’ to companies that want to open an online casino for about five thousand dollars a year. Curaçao’s government does not know who runs the casinos and how much money is rolling through online slots. Revenue often does not flow through Curaçao, but through anonymous companies in England, Ireland or Malta.

SoftSwiss, which operates more than a hundred Curacao gambling sites, says five billion euros are invested in their sites each month. That equates to a total of sixty billion annually for only a small fraction of the thousands of websites.

Son Piet S. and professional football players

Curaçao’s gambling companies appear in Russian, American, Italian, Brazilian and Dutch criminal cases, according to Platform Investico. According to the police and the judiciary, the son of the Hague drug dealer Piet S. was behind the illegal gambling site Edobet. Sparta players Tom Beugelsdijk and Aaron Meijers would have owned shares in the illegal gaming company, and former national team players Dirk Kuijt and Wesley Sneijder were questioned as witnesses in the criminal investigation last year. Edobet was licensed in Curaçao.

The US State Department explicitly warns in a recent report that criminal drug organizations can use Curacao’s gambling sites to launder criminal money.

‘gossip’

The interest organization for Curacao’s gaming companies states in a response that the ties between criminals and Curacao’s gaming sector are ‘gossip’. According to the association, “master licensees” transfer their licenses “with the knowledge and consent of the government”, and gaming companies are “under the strict supervision of private companies.”

Kill Helmin Wiels

Officials trying to regulate gaming companies better, or activists reporting abuse, are thwarted, charged or intimidated. Politician Helmin Wiels (54) was liquidated on 5 May 2013 on Playa Marie Pampoen, a few kilometers outside Willemstad.

A day before the assassination, Wiels gave a two-hour speech on YouTube in which he accused the gaming sector of tax evasion. He announced that he would release a ‘bomb’ on the gambling sector after the weekend. A day later, he was shot and killed with nine bullets while drinking a beer on the beach.

lottery king

The gunmen have been captured and Curaçao’s former minister George Jamaloodin was also sentenced to 30 years in prison on appeal for provoking the liquidation. Justice suspects Jamaloodin’s half-brother, gambling entrepreneur Robbie dos Santos, was also involved as a client. He was a suspect, but he was not charged with the murder in court. Dos Santos was convicted of financial crime.

No requirement

Since the Gambling Act was passed on Curacao in 1993, the gaming industry has been virtually unregulated. The law contains no provisions on supervision or sanctions for violations, makes no demands on operators of online casinos, contains no rules against money laundering and no guarantees that players will be treated fairly. The only requirement is that companies wishing to open online casinos apply for a license from the government.

Armed bodyguards

Legislative lawyer John van Schendel is due to issue these permits around 1995. He says he was pressured by ‘lottery king’ Robbie dos Santos. “Robbie came to my office with two armed bodyguards located on either side of my door in the hallway,” Van Schendel said. ‘I was just going to listen. I thought it was scary, it gave me Gestapo-like feelings. “

Number unknown

It is unknown how many online casinos there are now on Curaçao. The Curaçao Public Prosecutor’s Office estimates that there are around a thousand Curaçao gambling sites, the Curaçao Social and Economic Council (SER) holding it at seven to nine hundred companies. Follow the Money previously wrote that about ten thousand illegal casinos had operated from Curaçao in the last five years.

Meanwhile, the whole country is suffering from the bad reputation of the gaming sector: Curaçao is increasingly being excluded from international payments because banks are afraid of money laundering scandals.

Busy from Holland

It is the responsibility of the Government of Curaçao to amend the legislation on gaming companies and to ensure that there is supervision. It has not happened in thirty years and the Netherlands insists but can not enforce anything.

Meanwhile, the Curaçao Public Prosecutor’s Office is not intervening, new laws are never adopted due to ‘legal problems’, and the prosecution still does not consider itself capable of prosecuting gambling companies.

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