Belize Jumps Back into the Action

16 July 1999
Three years ago, the country of Belize passed an act to legalize Internet gambling and provide a safe jurisdiction for online gaming businesses. The intended revolutionary gambling haven never materialized, however, because companies were able to operate much less expensively in nearby Caribbean jurisdictions. That is, until recent developments which could lead to companies flocking to the country where it (almost) all began.

The original effort in Belize failed because legislation imposed a very high license fee, a gaming tax, the posting of a substantial bond and second the very high cost of telephone and internet service. To put the Central American back on the cyber map, the act has been scrapped, and incentives are now being offered by the government to encourage Internet and telephone gaming operations to domicile their operations in Belize.

The government addressed the problems with the act by establishing an Export Processing Zone to cater specifically to Internet and telephone gaming and other forms of electronic data processing. Under the Export Processing Zone Act, operators in an Export Processing Zone need to obtain a certificate of compliance from the government and no other licenses. Additionally, the developer of an Export Processing Zone is entitled to set up its own telecommunications facility so as to provide telecommunications services at a competitive rate.

Since the operation would be sited in an EPZ it would pay no income tax, capital gains tax, and no sales or valued added tax. Dividends paid by the company to its shareholders would be tax exempt. All equipment needed for the operation including vehicles, can be imported free of all tax and duties.

A company called DataPro International Ltd. has been awarded a license to establish telecommunication and data processing services. The company's facility is expected to be fully operational by September 1, 1999.

Dominion International, a marketing company which sets up offshore businesses, is offering a turn key licensing and compliance package for Internet and telephone gaming operators who wish to locate their business within the DataPro EPZ. The initial fee is $30,000, which includes the establishment of an operational company; the obtaining the Certificate of Compliance, authorizing the company to conduct Internet and telephone gaming; and the application for and obtaining of all work permits as needed. The fee covers everything, including government expenses. The annual maintenance and compliance fee is $25,000, which covers all disbursements.

Belize will be very attractive, like it or not, because the new guidelines call for no official screening process for prospective operators. This combined with extremely low licensing costs could spell trouble, although Dominion International expects the law of land to keep things in order. A spokesperson for the company explained that the industry is better off without government involvement. "We expect the industry to police itself," he said. He also added that DataPro will only supply services to respectable clients.

Export Processing Zone Act, No. 8 of 1990

Export Processing Zone Amendment of 1994

Computer Wagering Licensing Act, 1995