The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has written to the Curaçao Ministry of Finance over the activities of operators holding ‘master’ licences in the territory.
Reforms planned by the government of the Dutch Caribbean island could see a change to the current system, in which five ‘master’ licences are currently available. Four of the aforementioned ‘master’ licences are currently issued to active operators.
However, under the government’s reforms, all operators will need to reapply for permits granted by the newly-created Curaçao Gambling Authority (CGA).
Creina Chapman, Deputy Chair of the ACMA, informed Jvier Silvania, Curaçao Minister of Finance, that some ‘master’ licensees are illegally providing gambling products to the Australian market.
The Deputy Chair asserted to Silvania that information on these operators “may be relevant to CGA’s assessment of the suitability of a gaming operator to hold a licence under Curaçao reformed regulatory regime”.
Countering companies illegally advertising or providing gambling products in Australia without an Australian licence has become a core focus of the governing body over the past year.
In March of this year, the ACMA initiated a ‘fresh wave of enforcement action’ against illegal operators and affiliates targeting Australian consumers.
The body’s main method of enforcement is requesting internet service providers to block access to such sites, and the latest series of actions brought the total number of sites blocked to 709.
Noting that the ‘global nature of online gambling’ makes enforcement of Australian law difficult when many firms are based and licenced overseas, Chapman explained to Silvania that the ACMA aims to step up its engagement with international regulators.
The Deputy Chair’s letter outlined: “We are continuing to explore further regulatory collaboration with overseas gambling regulators and would welcome any opportunity to engage with CGA once established, to share information or coordinate against the provision of online gambling services in breach of Australian laws.”
Under Australian law, companies without a licence in an Australian territory or state are prohibited from offering sports betting, whilst providing or advertising online casino, online slots is banned in general.
Chapman’s letter asserted to the Curaçao government that operators licenced in the territory are breaching these rules, and hoped that this would be considered in the forthcoming reforms, alongside enhanced cooperation with the ACMA.
The ACMA’s communication with Curaçao comes as the betting and gaming industry faces increased political pressure in Australia, as various policymakers move the spotlight onto the industry’s societal impact in the country.
Notably, the federal government of Anthony Albanese has introduced new safer gambling messaging with stronger wording, while the New South Wales Labour Party outlined a series of planned reforms in January if it won the March 2023 elections, from which it subsequently emerged as the largest party in the state parliament.