Tunnel Vision: New Antigua Regulation Provides no Operator ConcessionsPublished December 14, 2016 by Lee R
New regulation does not adapt to the needs of licensees in iGaming’s pioneer nation.
Antigua’s new regulations are the same as the old ones, and online operators are unhappy.
The new Gambling Act of 2016 makes no concessions to operators, with the only visible update being to integrate the existing 2007 Interactive Gaming and Wagering Regulations into its language.
Expected to take effect in Q1 2017, just in time for a new wave of casino investment that includes a $740m integrated resort project from China’s Yida International Investment and a $250m resort casino bid from Crown Resorts kingpin James Packer and actor Robert De Niro, the proposed regulation model would fix online tax operator tax to the number of local staff on each operator’s respective payroll,
Companies employing four or fewer workers would pay 5% of gross gaming revenue (GGR); companies employing 5-30 would pay 4.5%; for employing 30-100 locals, 3.5%; and for operators employing over 100 locals, 2.5%, with a tax cap for all operators set at $750k per annum.
Despite the government’s claims it continues to examine ways to offer concessionary rates to new companies, questions linger about the taxing system’s appeal to new online licensees after multiple years of declines in online revenue GGR and the obstinate resistance to cryptocurrency.
Despite GGR rebounding last year, licensees continue to be turned off. Pinnacle refused to renew its existing Antigua license out of frustration expressed to Calvin Ayre regarding the lack of “even minor regulatory tweaks” on the part of the Antiguan government.
Claiming US Interference
Antigua blames the US for the exodus, attributing the departure of 187 total licensees to the United States’ block of Antigua-based operators serving the US market, a move ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization on multiple occasions.
As the first jurisdiction to presciently create a framework for online gambling regulation all the way back in 1994, the Antiguan government subsequently invested heavily in tech infrastructure, attracting many online gaming pioneers. By 2000, Antigua-licensed operators were generating $7 billion in revenues, ended by the US block soon after.
Past Versus Present
Any edification of Antigua’s claims against the US does not replace the need to adjust regulation sufficiently to make the Antigua market equitable for all operators in order to stop losing them.