Back when online gambling first appeared, sometime in the mid-1990s, the market was in chaos. Online casinos started to pop up everywhere, promoting their services and attracting players from all over the place. But most of the market was unregulated at first, with legislation waiting to catch up.
The first legal framework to regulate online gambling was passed in Antigua and Barbuda in the late 1990s, allowing the operation of online gambling outlets. This allowed the industry to work with a certain level of legitimacy, which allowed it to grow. Later, more regulators emerged, creating a comprehensive list of rules for those who wish to offer online casino games to players in their jurisdictions. In this article, we will list those that are the most permissive and the toughest of them all.
A Panama gambling license is perhaps the easiest to obtain. Those who want to offer gambling services out of the country need to register a company first:
- Provide access to their personal data, including the source of their funding, to the local authorities
- Obtain a recommendation letter from a bank, containing information about accounts
- Submit an application for the company’s registration to the State Register
On top of this, the company needs to provide the authorities with information about the company’s location, the type of gambling business to be conducted, and the names of the people involved (employees, legal representatives, etc.). No information on the owners, and their whereabouts, needs to be provided.
The Panama license is among the cheapest – it costs $40,000 in the first year, and $20,000 in subsequent years – and comes with the lowest tax burden.
Then again, gamblers consider it one of the most permissive, and least trustworthy, naming it “little more than a data handling license”.
Antigua and Barbuda
An Antigua license was, at one time, the only one you could obtain. Today, it remains the cheapest of them all: it costs just $25,000 a year. This is the cost of the license itself, though – there’s also an annual $100,000 contribution to the country’s development companies have to pay.
As Antigua and Barbuda is all bent on e-commerce, the authorities are mostly focused on the security of the operations. This means that an Antigua-licensed casino will secure the players’ personal information and transactions. Then again, the regulations are not that strict on the ethical aspects of gambling, which makes an Antigua license less trusted among gamblers.
Curaçao is formally part of the Netherlands, which technically makes it part of the EU – this makes a Curaçao gambling license a sought-after one among iGaming operators. There are, in turn, a few rules that make it a less reputable one than some other offshore licenses.
On the one hand, it allows “sub-licensing”, with a master license holder allowed to sublicense its operations to third parties. On the other hand, the Curaçao Gaming Control Board is not directly involved in any disputes between operators and clients, relying on third-party arbitration services to solve any issues.
A Curaçao license is relatively cheap, and it is issued quickly – in up to 4 weeks. It’s an “all-in-one” license, allowing licensees to offer services from online casinos to bingo and betting. This makes it perfect for niche and smaller operators to deploy their gambling outlets in a fast and cost-effective way.
The gambling license issued by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission is considered the best choice for startups focusing on North American clients. Many reputable gambling outlets have licenses issued by this regulatory body, from Electraworks Limited (the owner of Bwin, Party Poker, and Ladbrokes) to TD Investments, the company behind BetBigDollar, Lucky Creek, and other well-known casino brands.
A Kahnawake license is cost-effective and affordable, with a low initial cost and no corporate tax on the companies’ earnings. On the other hand, the local gaming authority is keeping an eye on its licensees, requiring periodical audits through third-party agents like eCogra or iTechLabs. Overall, it is seen as one of the better offshore gambling regulators by players.
Gibraltar is one of the top offshore gambling jurisdictions with a focus on maintaining its reputation. Operating under the Gibraltar government’s Gaming Division, the Gambling Commissioner is in charge of ensuring the licensees adhere to the country’s Gaming Regulation to the letter. To this end, it conducts periodical quality checks through independent auditors to ensure the licensees are up to their high standards.
To obtain a license from the Gibraltar Licensing Authority (GLA), companies have to:
- Demonstrate experience in the industry
- Have a proven reputation
- Present a business plan
- Have a license in another jurisdiction
- Adhere to strict advertising standards
Gibraltar is home to some of the oldest and most reputable gambling brands in Europe, including William Hill, 888, Betfred, and many others.
Malta is seen as the rockstar of offshore gambling jurisdictions. The country is progressive and permissive in its attitude toward gambling, with simple and flexible legislation that doesn’t compromise the integrity and security of the services offered.
To obtain a gambling license from the Malta Gaming Authority, companies have to submit a business plan, provide game certificates, and prove the origin of their funding. The MGA requires its licensees to only work with software providers that also have an MGA license, and adhere to strict anti-money laundering and responsible gambling policies. On the sports betting side, the MGA requires operators to report any suspicious betting activity and adhere to strict policies protecting the integrity of sports.
As a result, the MGA is the most reputable and trusted offshore gambling regulator today. Many gambling operators rely on this license to offer services in countries where gambling is not or is insufficiently regulated.
The offshore gambling landscape offers a spectrum of regulatory approaches, from Panama’s easy process and low cost to Malta’s progressiveness with strict adherence to integrity and security standards. But the licensing authority is not everything when it comes to online gambling. Players should judge outlets on their own merit before choosing one or another.