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In an effort to "enhance the value of Internet gaming licenses through greater regulation," the government of Antigua and Barbuda is introducing sweeping revisions to its offshore gaming policy.
New legislation mandates software audits; minimum pay-out percentages; a special board for the Directorate of Offshore Gaming; a ceiling on the number of total licensees; and, dare we use the 'T' word…
"Antigua and Barbuda's offshore gaming regulations will surpass that of any other Internet gaming jurisdiction to date," Director of Offshore Gaming Gyneth McAllister wrote this week in a letter to licensees.
In her letter, McAllister announced the following changes, which will occur over the course of the next few weeks:
- The Directorate of Offshore Gaming will be established as a separate entity from the Free Trade Zone.
- Operators will be required to pay a tax equal to 2 percent of their gross margin (gross handle minus pay out).
- The licensing application process will include software testing by TST (Technical Systems Testing) to ensure that the software meets government standards for fairness. Specifically, the testing will assess projected return to the player, regularity of jackpot pay-out, and verification of true random number generation. A unique "signature" for each operator will be recorded during the auditing process.
- The Directorate will house a "control server," which will audit transactions and determine the gross margin. The control server will be connected to the licensees' servers and will recognize the licensees' transactions by detecting their signature files. It will record the transactions and correlate the information for eventual assessment of the tax.
- In the case of sportbook software, there will be a feature that allows for the monitoring of the exposure. The software will alert the control server when the exposure is in excess of the prescribed ratio.
- Return to players will be set higher than current Las Vegas standards of .80 on the dollar on slots. The government is looking to set that minimum at 81 percent to 85 percent.
- The government has set a ceiling of 200 licenses, which McAllister expects to be filled by late 2000.
According to McAllister, of the current 82 licensees, the government has had 61 favorable responses and 5 expressing intentions to relocate.
McAllister believes that the government's commitment to standing by its licensees far outweighs the burden of tight regulation and a minimal tax. "Those of you who are departing due to the more stringent regulation and due to the nominal tax provision should reevaluate your positions, as Antigua and Barbuda has the treaties and political stance internationally which protects licensees, particularly of US origin," writes McAllister. "The protection of our licensees is as important to us as our regulation."
The changes have been made to enhance the Antigua and Barbuda Internet business reputation, especially in the prevention of money laundering, allowing Antigua and Barbuda to be known as a reputable and player-oriented jurisdiction.
All Antigua-based sites will be required to link to the government's new website at www.antiguagaming.com. The site features information on all licensees and access to the Better Business Bureau for players to verify licenses, register complaints and retrieve information on gaming sites. Additionally, licensees will be able to provide a description of their site for the "Meet the Licensees" section of antiguagaming.com. Banners and ad space will also be available.
A preview of the new legislation will be available at the Third Annual Symposium on Gaming Law and Management being held November 29, 1999 in London. Additionally, the government is promoting a Caribbean jurisdictional group, the Caribbean Internet Gaming Association (CIGA), to develop similar regulatory standards in other areas. Nearly one-half of all Internet wagering would be controlled through this association, according to McAllister.