Why not? Do you have what it takes? Well, everyday some new online gaming guru in the making launches a new online gaming site. But how daunting of a task is it? In our more than 14 years of experience in the online offshore gaming industry we can tell you that it requires significant effort and attention to detail.
The present gives you a basic legal overview of what is entailed in setting-up a fully functional online gambling website. We feel that many entrepreneurs start their adventure without fully understanding all the variables involved in setting-up an online casino. Some are expert gamblers, others are just businessmen, or software designers, and it takes a little bit of each to make it. As attorneys and offshore experts we feel that the cornerstone of the entire operation is understanding the applicable laws, remember that you are launching a global business and as such you must verify with appropriate legal counsel that you are not breaching international laws and regulations related to gaming.
Please look at the following key aspects so that you can have a starting point, the information is prepared based in our experience as legal counsel and experts in the matter:
Key Aspect # 1: Based on your nationality determine the possible legal implications of your actions
Key Aspect # 2: Determine the best jurisdiction to launch your site
Key Aspect # 3: Understand the implications of your selected target market and types of games
Key Aspect # 4: Determine the best location for your servers
Key Aspect # 5: Select the right corporate structure
Key Aspect # 6: Apply for your Gambling License
Key Aspect # 7: Deal with payment options
Key Aspect # 8: Go Live!
* KEY ASPECT # 1:
Based on your nationality determine the possible legal implications of your actions
The first key aspect that should be taken seriously into consideration is to study the legal ramifications that your actions could cause. Contact an experienced Gaming Law attorney to fully discuss if you are legally able to own an online gaming company.
Is online gaming legal in your country, in your state or province? If it is, do you require a gambling or gaming license? If such licenses are available can you meet the requirements? Because of the nature of the gaming industry and the globalization effect of the World Wide Web, it is important for you to know that governments are concerned about legal practices such as: money laundering, tax evasion, and fraudulent activities being disguised as wagers. Determine not only the applicable gaming laws but also the taxes involved for such an activity.
As it is well known the multi-billion dollar online gaming industry has one of its biggest and best markets in the Unites States of America. However, it is also well known that the United States still has a prohibitionist policy for online betting activities; several actions of the Department of Justice clearly demonstrate such a strict position. The main reason is not relatedto the nature of the industry, as gambling is considered to be innate to human nature, but it is mostly based on the difficulty of the Federal Government to collect taxes from offshore gaming companies taking bets from US citizens. This attitude has permanently raised the question of the United States trying to act as the watchdog of the Internet and about its violations to International Law and to dispositions of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Also if you are a US Citizen or resident please take into consideration that you are subject to global taxation, so if you decide that despite the position of your government towards gaming you still want to pursue such avenue, bear in mind that you might have to pay taxes in an offshore jurisdiction and in your country of origin. As this is such a delicate issue we recommend making an informed decision.
* KEY ASPECT # 2:
Determine the best jurisdiction to launch your site
Now that you understand what implications arise from your nationality, you have to decide if you launch your operation from your country of origin, or if you will decide to select an offshore jurisdiction.
Normally the best option available is to go offshore, you will find considerable regulatory advantages in countries with a more relaxed attitude towards online gaming. Below you will see a simple table to make you understand the best offshore options to set-up an online casino operation.
ANTIGUA - CARIBBEAN - 3/6 MONTHS - US$200,000 YEARLY FEES - HIGH DIFFICULTY
BELIZE - CENTRAL AMERICA - 2/4 MONTHS - US$60,000 YEARLY FEES - MEDIUM DIFFICULTY
COSTA RICA - CENTRAL AMERICA - 2/3 MONTHS - US$5,000 TO US$10,000 YEARLY FEES - LOW DIFFICULTY
CURACAO - CARIBBEAN - 2/3 MONTHS - US$60,000 YEARLY FEES - HIGH DIFFICULTY
MALTA - EUROPEAN UNION - 3/4 MONTHS - US$100,000 YEARLY FEES - HIGH DIFFICULTY
As you can see, among the most popular and realistic offshore gambling licenses options jurisdictions, fees are not created for small or medium size operations. Costa Rica offers the best option to launch an online casino or gambling site. Even though Costa Rica offers a gambling license known as a data processing license which is not regulated by a specific gaming authority, this country has been the choice for some of the world's biggest gaming operations. Bodog, Betonsports, SDB Global, Sportingbetusa, CRIS, Betus, Mvpsportsbook, Absolute Poker, Doyle's Room are just an example of how this strong democracy has provided an ideal legal system for these companies to grow. Because of the country's long democratic tradition, once you obtain the license you will not be subject to unpleasant surprises from the authorities. The negative aspect is that the lack of specific supervision requires self-regulation by the operators of the gaming site, which could be dangerous for players. Despite the lack of strict enforcement, the serious cases of fraudulent Costa Rican gaming companies are rare.
So unless your budget is of several million dollars to risk and unless you have a client database of several hundred, we believe Costa Rica is by far your best option to launch your initial operation. Later on when you are able to position your site as an internationally recognized operation you could look into securing more formal licenses to gain access to certain operational advantages.
* KEY ASPECT # 3:
Understand the implications of your selected target market and types of games
If you listen to our advice and get your Gambling License from Costa Rica, you are technically getting a data processing license from a selected local government in Costa Rica which allows you to operate an online gaming operation. Such a license is internationally accepted by most of the online processing providers and by certain financial institutions as a legitimate permit to conduct gaming activities using a Costa Rican Gaming Company to target the global market.
Please understand that this gambling license allows you to conduct gaming activities without breaching Costa Rican Law, but as you can imagine certain restrictions apply. For example it is desirable to block Costa Rican IP addresses from accessing your gaming site. Costa Rica allows you to target foreign markets but the local market is monopolized by the government. Also we have mentioned before it requires special attention if the site will allow United States citizens to play. Before making such decision it is a must to examine along with your lawyer the implications for both US Citizens and other nationalities.
Depending on the country of origin of your player, certain rules might vary depending on the type of game that you are offering. Sports' betting is considered generally illegal in the United States, skill involved in the game is another factor to take into consideration as well as other limitations for games controlled by the State.
The current virtual reality of globalized online business presents a considerable challenge for legislators as certain acts take place in cyberspace and lack face to face negotiations. Dematerialization of online business raises questions of the applicable laws to certain transactions. So if you have a license in Costa Rica, but you are not allowed to target the local market, can only conduct offshore business but still have to verify and avoid certain illegalities, where does the contract takes place? Is it in Costa Rica, or in the country of the player, or in cyberspace? Such are the great areas of the Internet, the advantages and the cons.
* KEY ASPECT # 4:
Determine the best location for your servers
In a close relationship with the previous step, if you are licensed in Costa Rica, it makes sense to host your site in servers located in the same country. If you block local IP addresses you are preventing of being accused of breaching the monopoly of the State over bets.
Some operators decide to host their sites in other countries, because Internet lacks in most countries of specific regulations for material hosted in local servers, the difficulty of patrolling the Internet and the even harder task of deciding which jurisdiction to apply, normally the decision of locating the servers is based more on technical aspects than in legal considerations.
* KEY ASPECT # 5:
Select the right corporate structure
In our experience the ideal corporate structure will include a Costa Rican Gaming Company to hold the license, one or more additional local corporations for asset protection strategies and an offshore corporation from a different jurisdiction.
With a Costa Rican limited liability corporation you will operate your gaming site and apply to the Gambling License. Such entities provide protection from claims against personal assets just like any other type of business.
We also believe that based in the current situation of the offshore gaming industry including an offshore corporation from a tax haven country or the EU could provide considerable confidentiality and regulatory advantages. This corporate structure has to be created based on your specific needs by an experienced lawyer.
Applicable fees for setting-up the Costa Rican Gaming Company:
New Costa Rican Gaming Company - €2,500.00
Standard Package includes:
- Articles of Incorporation
- Articles of Incorporation + official translation + Apostille
- Share Transfer Agreement
- Share Certificates
- Certificate of Good Standing + official translation + Apostille
- Certificate of Incorporation + official translation + Apostille
- Legal Books
- Resident Agent (included for the 1st year)
- Registered Address (included for the 1st year)
Renewal Fees for the 2nd and subsequent years - €1,700.00
Other (optional) Services:
- Power of Attorney (POA) - €400.00
- Apostille of corporate documents (per document) - €200.00
- Amendments - €1,000.00
- Duplicate of corporate documents (per document) - €150.00
* KEY ASPECT # 6:
Apply for your Gambling License
Costa Rica offers the by far the best option to gain a gambling license for your startup operation. Only certain local governments or municipalidades grant such licenses known as data processing licenses. It is handled by experienced Gaming Law attorneys who determine the pros and cons of such an application. The license is specifically a business license and requires the permit to be granted to a physical location in Costa Rican territory, which can be entirely handled by Gaming attorneys. For your education the following is the basic application logic of the Gambling License in Costa Rica:
* Lease Agreement Analysis
* Zoning Permit
* Work Risk Insurance
* Employer Registration
* Health Permit
* Business License
Estimated Duration: 2-3 months
Issued by: Selected Local Governments
Applicable fees for obtaining the Costa Rican Gaming License:
Costa Rican Data Processing License - €8,950.00
Renewal Fees for the 2nd and subsequent years - €4,000.00
* KEY ASPECT # 7:
Deal with Payment Options
Using the Costa Rican Company and with your Gaming License you will gain access to several payment processing options available for offshore gaming operations. Because of the special nature of the activity, payment processing and banking require special attention. With the help of the expert Gaming Law attorney you will be informed of the options, we suggest to do a combination of jurisdictions and banking options to implement a strong yet flexible financial structure which in our opinion will decide a lot of the success of your project.
* KEY ASPECT # 8:
The moment you have waited for is finally here, normally 2-3 months after you have retained your attorneys and after considerable effort your site will be operational and ready to benefit from your marketing efforts! Good Luck!!!