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The Jewels of Caribbean Archipelago That Offer Online Sportsbook Licenses

Aaron Gray

by Aaron Gray

Updated Aug 6, 2020 · 10:56 AM PDT

Many of the longest-tenured sportsbooks with the strongest reputations house themselves just off the shore of the United States, in the Caribbean. Antigua, Costa Rica, and Curacao each offer online sportsbook licenses and cooperate with regulatory bodies to ensure legitimacy, safety, and bettor satisfaction.

For more information on the nuances of each of these licensing regions and how they work together with sportsbooks to provide the possible sports betting experiences for clients all over the globe, read on!


A small island and former British colony located in the West Indies, Antigua is a popular base of operations for many online sportsbooks.

Antigua is well-known both regionally and internationally for its ports that are uniquely geographically suited for natural protection and shelter from extreme weather events. Just as Antigua provides a safe haven for stranded sailors in need of some respite from the weather, it similarly provides protection and a secure base of operation for numerous sportsbooks.

Antigua Was a Pioneer in Offering Licenses to Online Sportsbooks

Antigua was one of the first countries to legalize online sportsbooks, issuing its first license to an online sportsbook in 1994. By 1996, the nation hosted 15 online sportsbooks. At its peak, Antigua’s online gaming industry employed over 4,000 people, which was a significant percentage of the country’s workforce. Generating over $3.4 billion in annual revenue, the online sports betting industry centers around call center operations, marketing, and the IT sector.

The small island nation has provided a model for how countries can successfully integrate online sportsbooks into their economy. The relationship between sportsbooks and the national employment and GNP rates has been mutually beneficial. Most, if not all, nations that provide licenses to online sportsbooks have modeled themselves after Antigua.

Antigua’s Regulatory Bodies

The Division of Gaming, a division of the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC), is responsible for regulation. This body functions in compliance with international law, under a specific legal framework as stipulated by the International Business Corporations Act and the Interactive Gaming and Interaction Wagering Legislations.

To maximize efficiency – and provide the best service to the businesses they incorporate – the FSRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. This agreement allows for a licensed operator in either jurisdiction to apply for an Inter-Jurisdictional Authorization, allowing the operator to host their business in either domain.

Antigua’s Gaming Laws as a Nexus of Internal Controversy

In 2017, an old disagreement between Antigua and the United States of America was revived in the wake of the hurricanes that devastated the Caribbean in 2017.

Some countries, including the United States, have often argued that, if a sports betting transaction is initiated outside Antigua, that transaction should be governed within the boundaries of the country where it was initiated.

This argument has frequently been brought to the World Trade Organization (WTO), where the WTO has resolutely rejected it as incorrect. Despite this, domestic US concerns over online gambling (compounded with pressure with local casinos) caused the US to crack down on online gambling in the early 2000s.

In response to this crackdown, which had a sizeable impact on Antigua’s strong but not exceptionally diverse economy, Antigua brought the case before the WTO in 2004.

The WTO arbitration panel decreed that the US illegally violated its trade commitments and Antigua had been unjustly deprived of trade revenue. Subsequently, they ordered the US to remunerate Antigua with $21 million.

The US has consistently tried to appeal this decision to no avail. The WTO has sided very clearly with Antigua, as they do not believe the US should be entitled to undue influence and interference in foreign locales.

The US has not paid Antigua the full amount of what they are owed, and the cumulative debt is estimated to be close to $200 million. This nearly fifteen-year-old dispute has been in the news regularly, as Antigua direly needs the money that they are rightfully owed to assist in the efforts to rebuild their economy in the wake of a natural disaster.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a stable democracy in a notoriously unstable region, providing a similarly stable home for online sportsbooks.

A US protectorate, Costa Rica is lauded for its progressive environmental policies and is the highest-ranked nation in Latin America on the Human Development Index. Considered by many to be world-class in demonstrating the efficacy of clean energy sources, Costa Rica is also a successful example of how to host online sportsbooks.

How Does Costa Rica Regulate Its Sportsbooks? Well, They Don’t Really

The Free Trade Zone (FTZ) that Costa Rica provides is exceptionally appealing for many multinational corporations and foreign investors, as well as sportsbooks.

Costa Rica’s regulatory policies are fairly laissez-faire, to say the least. Since being founded in 1821, Costa Rica has lacked laws that govern any kind of gambling. There is still no governing body to oversee online sportsbooks, so these outfits are without specific regulations.

Those who set up shop in Costa Rica capitalize on the nation’s economic philosophy which preaches extreme tolerance and eschews any form of managerial oversight.

While There’s No Regulatory Body, Sportsbooks Can Still Acquire Licenses

Eventually, the Costa Rican government set up an internet gaming license for online sportsbooks, despite lacking a regulatory body for online sportsbooks.

While not mandatory for sportsbooks to acquire, many applied and received it regardless. This definitely gives customers peace of mind, knowing that they bet with a reliable sportsbook.

Sportsbooks operating in Costa Rica still enjoy more freedom from regulation than in any other locale around the world.

Relaxed Standards for International Sportsbooks, Not for Its Citizens

Despite lax enforcement of sportsbooks’ practice, it is highly illegal for Costa Rica’s residents to gamble outside of a casino.

Any and all gambling on games determined to have a “random” outcome is also illegal, even within the bounds of casinos. Costa Rican law stipulates that the physical location of an online sportsbook’s server is not where bets technically take place.

Subsequently, it is within the bounds of the law for sportsbooks to operate within Costa Rica as long as they don’t solicit the business of Costa Ricans.


A former Dutch colony, Curacao is often celebrated for its progressive, open economic policies. Online sportsbooks play no small part in this reputation.

As part of its continued economic growth in the technology sector, many IT companies have blossomed in Curacao. As expected, online sportsbooks make up a sizeable contingent of this expansion.

Curacao Is Friendly to Sportsbooks

Officially creating legislation to regulate online sportsbooks in the mid-90s, online sportsbooks had become a vital component of the island’s economy by 2002.

All online sportsbooks must go through the Curacao Gaming Control Board. This administration has the authority to issue and withdraw operational licenses.

With a strong reputation as a base for online sportsbooks, the process of registering with the Curacao Gaming Control is free of excessive bureaucracy and lacks the intricate registration processes of many other licensing regions. Sportsbooks only need to acquire one license to start doing business. For this reason, this small island nation is one of the most popular destinations for online sportsbooks to register.

Curacao Isn’t the Cheapest, But Registration Has Incentives

The initial fees to register a sportsbook are relatively high, as are the monthly operational costs. Licensure costs around $21,000 initially, with a renewal fee of approximately $6,000 per year.

However, Curacao’s corporate income tax is only 2% a year, and there’s zero tax on gross incoming wagers. This means that sportsbooks registered in Curacao don’t have to pay taxes on anything except pure profits, and even then, the tax is a mere 2% (which excludes import duties and sales tax, which may affect online sportsbooks.)!

After paying the relatively sizeable initial setup costs, online sportsbooks are offered technical support for their IT infrastructure and web hosting services.

Curacao seeks to be an accessible, attainable option for upstart online sportsbooks as well as tenured books.

The Curacao Government Expects Excellence From Its Sportsbooks

To maintain their reputation, the Curacao Gaming Control Board keeps a watchful eye on the sportsbooks they oversee.

This licensing body requires an annual audit of all software used by sportsbooks, proof that all games in the casino portions of sportsbooks are indeed wholly randomized, and evidence that employees of sportsbooks do not have any kind of criminal past.

Part of Curacao’s mission as a licensing region is to bring respect and legitimacy to the world of online sports betting. Therefore, the government treats online sportsbooks like legitimate businesses, and consequently, they expect all sportsbooks operating under their regulatory umbrella to function as such.

Sportsbooks base their operations all over the globe. To learn more about why sportsbooks set up their base of operations where they do, check out our guide to sports betting’s legality.


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