A 'Slightly Lighter Touch' in Sark

2 April 2003

Sark Island doesn't allow its 600 residents to travel by car, but soon it will license and regulate Internet gambling.

One of the United Kingdom's Channel Islands, Sark has embarked on the process of setting up I-gaming regulations. On Feb. 27, Sark received royal assent on its Gambling (Sark) Law, a process that Jonathan Brannam, one of the islands' parliament members, likens to the U.S. process of the president signing a bill into law.

"We do not seek to become clones of either Alderney or Isle of Man--but neither do we seek to compete with them on price, etc., to entice away their licensed operators."
- Jonathan Brannam
Sark Island Parliament

Now that the law is passed allowing Sark to oversee online gambling operations, the island's parliament, called the Chief Pleas, must determine regulations to govern any Internet gambling operators that make the island home.

Of the four main Channel Islands, Sark is the smallest and is located 80 miles south of the coast of England. The entire island is three miles long and a mile and a half wide. According to its government Web site, the island does not allow personal travel by car--only by "foot, bicycle or horse drawn carriage." The year-round population is 600, a figure that increases to 1,000 with seasonal travel.

On March 26, the Chief Pleas' Gambling Subcommittee discussed and approved a report that contains a resolution allowing the island's government to raise a levy from companies to be licensed in Sark to provide Internet gambling.

The report also states that the parliament is interested in hosting companies that offer simpler fixed-odds games like bingo, slots and poker. The group additionally said it would advocate the licensing of bookmaking. In the report, the group mentions that it will be necessary, at some future meeting, to "grapple with the issue of whether to permit legalized gambling in Sark by online customers from countries where online gambling is not permitted--e.g. China, Hong Kong or some states in the USA."

Brannam said that while the "umbrella" law establishing the ability of the island to offer online gambling licenses has already been made final, it is still up to the Chief Pleas to pass secondary legislation, in the form of an ordinance that will set out the rules for the industry. Brannam, who is on the gambling subcommittee, said the ordinance has been started and will be brought to the Chief Pleas, which has maximum number of 52 members, this summer for a vote.

The report states that Sark has a one-year window of opportunity to establish itself as an online gaming jurisdiction. Brannam said they realize that there are already several jurisdictions for operators to choose from and that they wish to offer features that operators won't find in other countries. However, he said, Sark does not wish to compete with neighbors Alderney and Isle of Man for licensees.

"At this moment, suffice it to say that we have carried out research and identified some features that we think may work for us," he wrote in an e-mail to IGN. "We do not seek to become clones of either Alderney or Isle of Man--but neither do we seek to compete with them on price, etc., to entice away their licensed operators."

One such feature, Brannam said in a phone interview with IGN, will be that Sark won't require as many employees of the online gambling company to live on the island as some other jurisdictions do. He said he would like Sark's regulations to have a "slightly lighter touch which will be no less effective."

Click here to view the sub-committee report.

Anne Lindner can be reached at anne@rivercitygroup.com.