Antigua and Barbuda is a nation comprised of two separate islands that are recognized together as a single country. Although geographically separated and is probably one of those countries that are not quite known to many, these two islands made its country known for its firm contradictions with the United States’ violation of the General Agreement on Trade Services in which the complaints were addressed to the World Trade Organization. The dispute between the two countries resulted from the United States preventing the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda from participating in any online gambling activities. This has jolted the citizens resulting for the country to reach out to the WTO and complained about the unjust violation created by the US.
Before the existence of regulatory and licensing bodies in online gambling, the island country of Antigua and Barbuda was the very first jurisdiction to open up to potential gambling companies and accept licenses for online gambling in the year 1994. This jurisdiction had set the milestone for online gambling to be more organized and become a regulated form of gambling as other regulating bodies have started to emerge. This has made Antigua and Barbuda as one of the most reputable gambling jurisdiction in the industry.
In the early years as a licensing body, it is quite generous in awarding licenses to any operators that could meet with even the minimum standards of the jurisdiction for approval. However, this resulted in a number of low quality gambling sites that operate under the approval of the jurisdiction that runs scam operations which left a mark on the reputation of the jurisdiction. Because of this, Antigua became more discriminating on whom to award the license to and allow to operate internet gaming activities. Over the years of its operation, it has improved its track record through its good reviews of its operations and thus, is now white-listed by the UK Gambling Association, which means that its licensees can promote their services in Britain.
The US- Antigua Dispute
Antigua and Barbuda were involved in a dispute with the United States since 2003 over issues on online gambling. Antigua argued that the US violated the General Agreement on Trade Services (GATS) by making online gambling outlawed in the United States while it is a legal and regulated industry in Antigua. Being members of the World Trade Organization, both countries argued about the legality of online gambling. Antigua saw that the United States is discriminating against foreign good providers while favoring their own. Where Antigua regulates online gambling, the United States is firm on its laws that point out that it is illegal to offer online gambling services to the US. At the end of the trial with WTO, the final decision ruled in favor of Antigua. Even so, the USA continued to be resistant to change, and so the US-Antigua dispute continues.
Gambling in Antigua
Antigua is home to six casinos, some of which are Asot’s Arcade, Jackpot Casino, and the Grand Princess Casino. Some of the popular games that are widely played are slots, poker games, Roulette, Craps, and Blackjack. The land casinos reside around the island where poker tournaments are being held. Online poker sites, on the other hand, run online tournaments from the island’s servers such as Ladbrokes Poker and Bet365 Poker.
The Regulatory Body
Since 1994, all internet iGaming activities are regulated by the Division of Gaming which is under the umbrella of the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC). The jurisdiction of Antigua & Barbuda is represented by its official regulatory body, the Directorate of Offshore Gaming also known as the Gaming Commission. The gaming commission enforces all guidelines on internal gambling operations of companies such as the registration, advertising, licensing, payment methods, customer feedback and other iGaming related issues that may occur.
The Directorate of Offshore Gaming is committed to carrying out its social responsibilities by following their main objectives:
- To strengthen the industry’s commitment towards responsible gaming and social responsibility.
- To enhance the capacity of operators to conduct business in a manner that promotes responsible gaming
- To protect consumers from gaming with a site licensed in the jurisdiction that they are gaming with an operator that agree to regulatory and licensing guidelines.
- To hold operators accountable to incorporate the best practices to the industry with respect to responsible gaming and deliver gaming services in a socially responsible environment.
There are about 50 online gaming companies that are licensed in Antigua and they are categorized as financial establishments and are subjected to strict laws of the island country. These laws such as the Anti-Money Laundering and Caribbean Financial Action Task Force are imposed strictly on all gambling activities existing in the country. With its stringent laws implemented to such activities, Antigua is considered as one of the best gaming jurisdictions as it promotes good management practices to all of the online gambling companies that have received its license.
The Antigua and Barbuda License has received a great amount of trust from its licensees due to its efficient services that ensure its focus on prevention of money laundering, player safety, and protection against fraud, as well as the enhancement of the online gambling industry as a whole. The “Know Your Customer” procedure has made a remarkable impact in the gambling industry. With the accounts of the licensees subjected to auditing in order to certify their safety, player protection and compliance to the laws and regulations, the online gambling community became more organized under the jurisdiction of Antigua and Barbuda.
As a member, Antigua and Barbuda had also agreed to the standard e-Gambling Protocol set by the International Association of Gaming Regulator (IAGR). The protocol includes ensuring the fairness of the games, system and the quality of all services to players
International License Partnership
Antigua has opened its doors for other foreign gambling operators to enter its gambling market. In order for this to happen, the online gambling jurisdiction has worked with other regulatory bodies to create international relationships. International relationships help both parties benefit from each other in terms of flexibility and strength of the jurisdiction. For instance, Antigua made a deal with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. With this relationship, gaming companies can receive gambling authorization that can both run their operations from both Antigua and Kahnawake Gaming Commission jurisdiction. Such relationships are a milestone to creating a higher level of standards and reach an international level.
Types of Licenses Available
Antigua and Barbuda feature two types of licenses that gambling operators must both need to apply in order to operate. These licenses include the interactive gaming (casinos) and interactive wagering (sportsbook) which both has similar application procedure. In the present, the jurisdiction of Antigua and Barbuda has issued 6 active wagering licensees and 6 active gaming licensees.
Licensees under this jurisdiction can be from two types: active licensees and non-licensees.
Active licensees refer to companies that have been given license by the Division of Gaming to operate casinos and sportsbook under the jurisdiction of Antigua and Barbuda.
Non-Licensees, on the other hand, refer to companies that are not licensed by the country’s jurisdiction but have been purportedly claiming to be licensed by the jurisdiction.
Before a gambling operator is granted the license to operate, it must first undergo a series of inspections conducted by the regulating body as part of a lengthy application process. The licensing process includes background checks; submission of paperwork and various audits of the operators’ gambling systems and finances. Application for a license also includes non-refundable application fee in which the amount varies on the type of license that you are applying to. The paperwork includes filling up of several forms that will prove the operator’s credibility, clean criminal history, as well as its capacity to fund its gambling operation. After passing the requirements and being qualified for the license, the operators are awarded a 1-year license that is renewable every year.
Routine Inspections and Renewal
Antigua and Barbuda conduct semi-manual audits to its licensees. This will allow an opportunity for the operators to be checked whether they are still qualified for their renewal of license. The jurisdiction does check up on some important data on the operations of the company through auditing programs. Through inspection, the licensees must be able to present a regular proof of game fairness, financial status as well as its compliance with the anti-money laundering law. They are also required to submit reports about incidents relating to breach of responsible gaming such as underage gambling and problem gambling by players if there are any. If the licensee fails to comply with the standards for renewal of the licenses, the license of the site to operate will be revoked.
Application Fee : $ 15,000
Interactive Gaming License (for Casinos) : $ 100,000
Interactive Wagering License (for Sportsbooks) : $ 75,000
With Monitoring System : $ 25,000 for one license , $ 45,000 for two licenses
Annual Renewal Fee per License : $ 5,000
License Validity: 1 year
Software Testing Requirement:
Each software components shall have a description of its features and gaming functionality.
Player Registration and Restrictions
In order for players to sign in or make an account to an Antigua licensed casino, the player must undergo a registration process that includes a verification process that will ensure that the player’s status complies with the terms and conditions set by both the casino and the jurisdiction. A person can only register after completing the registration form that is approved by the Gaming Commission. Upon registration, it is expected that the players will give some personal information such as the name, age, email, location, as well as bank details if the players wish to make their initial deposit to the casino right after registration.
Signing up for an account to any online casinos requires players to be at a legal age. The age verification requirement imposes that players need to be at least 18 years of age in order to join in an authorized online gambling. Players must also only play if online gambling is allowed in the country. Any breach of the regulations will result to forfeit of any winnings from the casino.
Antigua and Barbuda Licensed Casinos
Unlike the other licensing authorities such as Curacao, UK, and Malta, which have a long list of casinos that they have awarded the license with, there are only a few casinos online that are licensed under the jurisdiction of Antigua and Barbuda. Some of the licensed casinos you can find are: Golden Euro Casino, Titan Casino, Casino Del Rio, Casino Tropez, Millionaire Casino, VIP Slots Casino, Bodog Casino, Winner Casino, Casino Bellini, SlotsGalore Casino, 7Regal Casino, LinesMaker Casino, Carbon Casino, Bets Casino, RummyRoyal Casino, Vegas Red Casino, WinnerClub Casino, and Titanbet.co.uk.
Player Protection and Responsible Gambling
Under this license, operators are required to register and verify the identity of the players before allowing them to participate in any wagering activities. Operators must also submit the personal information such as name, date of birth and residence of the registering players in compliance with the privacy law. This should be made confidential in order to protect the player’s privacy.
Casinos under this license are imposed with the last time of log. This time tracking is a good method of confronting fraud that may occur upon logging in. The last time of log in must be shown after logging in using the player’s user ID and password. This will allow the players to immediately take actions once they detect fraud in the case or any suspicion of unauthorized logins.
Online gambling platforms must also promote self-awareness regarding gambling behavior by displaying information on their website. Operators are required to discuss with the player’s topics such as responsible gambling, gambling addiction, fraud prevention, underage gambling, as well as laws and regulations that players should be aware of and follow in order to gamble legally.