Gambling regulations to be overhauled in Antigua to improve management of casino industry.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ntigua’s government is planning to revamp its gambling regulatory structure in order to better manage its growing casino industry. However new proposals aiming to reverse the fortunes of the country’s diminishing online gambling sector many fall short of the mark.
At the start of December, the Antiguan House of Representatives debated and approved the Antigua and Barbuda Gambling Bill 2016. The bill is primarily aimed at managing landbased gambling operations, covering lotteries, casinos and sports betting, although the 2007 Interactive Gaming and Wagering Regulations which cover the online sector will be folded into the 2016 Act.
The new legislation will establish the Gambling Authority of Antigua, which will take gambling out of the purview of the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC).
The new regulator will handle licensing and monitoring of all gambling on the island, including the online sector. Additionally, the government proposes to introduce “an appropriate monitoring system and mandate monthly reports.”
The Act is expected to be approved in the first quarter of 2017, as Antigua braces itself for a wave of new casino investment. The past few years have seen the government welcome a $740m integrated resort project from China’s Yida International Investment and a $250m resort casino project involving Crown Resorts’ James Packer and actor Robert De Niro.
The Act does not stipulate gambling tax rates, which will be worked out when specific regulations are crafted, however a tiered tax structure has been proposed for online operators based on the number of local staff on their books. This would see companies pay between 2.5 to 5 percent of their gross gaming revenue (GGR) depending on how many local staff they employ while all operators would face a tax cap of $750,000 per annum. However, Antigua’s proposed tax structure compares unfavourably with that of other leading online licensing jurisdictions, including Malta, which charges $8,900 per year in fees and caps annual tax contributions at $495,00, while Gibraltar charges its licensees one percent of betting turnover capped at $539,00 per year and one percent of online casino revenue.