Costa Rica: On the Verge of a New Era?

8 December 2000
If gaming industry insiders have their way in Costa Rica, online gaming operators will soon have an ally to their cause.

Operating virtual casinos and sportsbooks in Costa Rica is currently a "tolerated activity," according to one spokesperson. It's not illegal, but it's not legal either, says Eduardo Agami, president of SBG Global and President of a newly formed association of the gaming industry.

The new association, which has a board of directors but no charter as of yet, has come out in support of a move in the Caribbean country to start licensing the industry.

According to Agami, creating a licensing system will bring an immediate credibility factor to operators based in the small Central American country. Regulation is needed for the industry to move to the next level on the global scale. He feels by introducing regulations in Costa Rica more operators will move into the country instead of out of it.

The move would also be beneficial to the government of Costa Rica, as proceeds from licensing fees would increase the government's coffers.

"The move is in the oven," Agami said. "It is just a matter of whether the yeast rises or sinks."

Everyone seems to be in favor of the deal, so what's the hang up?

Apparently, the only thing keeping such a law from passing in the Costa Rican Assembly is the cost of licensing. Published reports out of Costa Rica say the cost would be $120,000, but Agami feels that's too steep of a price to ask smaller-sized operators to pay.

Agami wants there to be some middle ground where the bigger gaming companies can pay without alienating the smaller ones. He admitted that the movement to form an association of Costa Rican operators as well as the licensing fee issue have been meet with much fan fare in the industry.

The alternative for operators is to continue with the status quo, and Agami feels that is not a viable option.

Because online gambling is unregulated in Costa Rica, operators can't count on much security when it comes to their future. Agami said a licensing agreement would at least give operators security from one year to the next. He also pointed out that a regulated industry wouldn't be the subject of the whims based on someone's mood on any given day.

An association would give the gaming industry in Costa Rica identification as a community. With that, according to Agami, the industry would be able to align itself with the government in future matters relating to licensing or other policies.

Agami claims that there are over 100 online gaming sites based in Costa Rica.

"Costa Rica is the Mecca of the gaming industry," he said. "There are more sportsbooks here than anywhere else in the world. We are on the verge of a new era."

Agami said the government already benefits from the online gaming industry's presence. Not only do Net betting businesses create jobs pay for office space, they also pay taxes and other basic company fees to the government.

While the new Costa Rica Association is still in an infant stage, Agami is busy lobbying government officials to make sure a favorable decision for the gaming industry is reached.

In the meantime, he's sending out a call to operators in Costa Rica to join the new association and supply input for drawing up the charter. He feels once the group is formed it will be able to spring into action.

"Once we get set up we can go to the government and say, 'Here we are, what do we need to do to get on to the straight and narrow,'" he said.

Operators in Costa Rica are encouraged to call Agami and let him know of their interest in the association. He can be reached at 506-440-3357. Operators should call Monday-Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m.

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