Can Anjouan fill the gap Curacao is leaving behind?

1 April 2024

Anjouan has some of the lowest fees for operators.

Anjouan has some of the lowest fees for operators.

The online gambling sector has changed in the last few years, marked by a regulatory overhaul in Curacao, the emergence of booming markets in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the U.S., and the tightening of rules in Europe. Amid all this change, Anjouan has come from relative obscurity to the forefront of people’s minds regarding iGaming licensing jurisdictions. At Fast Offshore, we are fielding an increasing number of requests for information and assistance on Anjouan, and it is fast becoming a leader, rivaling tribal licenses, Curacao, and even some big players like Malta and the Isle of Man. But does it have what it takes to become an industry favorite long-term? Or is it just a flash in the pan?

What happened to Curacao
The Caribbean island of Curacao has long dominated the iGaming sector in terms of regulation. The licensing jurisdiction of choice for big and small names alike offered stability, low costs, and a hands-off regime that left decisions in the hands of master license holders. These master license holders would then issue sub-licenses to applicants, allowing them to set up and run their operations from the island. Boosted by low fiscal obligations, minimal reporting, and reasonable initial and ongoing costs, operators came in their droves. But it was not to last. Over the last few years, the island came under scrutiny, in particular its regulated industries like iGaming. It was told to tighten the rules, increase monitoring, and ensure its iGaming sector and everyone in it comply with international rules and best practices.

As a result, the authorities moved away from the old master-sub licensing model and developed a comprehensive and far-reaching new framework. This included bringing all licensees under a central, government-monitored system and all applications being lodged via an online portal. It also foresees tighter rules on KYC, DD, and measures to combat financial crime, money laundering, and anything that may negatively impact players.

While this regulatory sprucing up is commendable, and some would argue that it is much overdue, it has made things complicated for some operators. With Curacao also revamping requirements and fees, it is competing alongside tier 1 jurisdictions such as Malta and the Isle of Man, something that is not ideal, required, or in reach for many operators. It risks closing a niche in the market for a jurisdiction that offers regulatory certainty, with reliability, at a lower price point and without all the paperwork and red tape. It is not about operators wanting to circumvent the rules or act in a nefarious manner- it is about cost, resources, and accessibility.

Many operators find tier-one licensing way out of reach. Startups, solo entrepreneurs, small brands, and those looking to take the first step into the sector will find the regulatory burden that comes with tier one too much to carry. They simply cannot justify the time, expense, or resources required to get such a license and instead look to other jurisdictions to get licensed, get profitable, and get ahead before considering other moves in the future.

So, what happens to these brands? Those who were once at home in Curacao or would have considered applying for a license now find themselves trying to navigate uncertain and somewhat choppy regulatory waters? There is a definite need to get licensed; player confidence, compliance with laws, ease of doing business with banks, payment gateways, and game providers are just a few reasons why, but the question is, how and where?

What about Anjouan?
Let’s be honest: very few of us had heard of Anjouan until quite recently, and many of those outside the iGaming sector will not have heard of it at all. A small island in the Union of the Comoros, nestled in the Indian Ocean, the local authorities have been working hard to seize the opportunity presented by goings on in Curacao. They have sought to capitalize on the regulatory shift, bringing in operators in droves (around 100 in the last few months alone) and with many more looking at it as a viable option for their startup or established business. The actual license has been around for a number of years. Still, recent overhauls and streamlining by the authorities have made it even more attractive for operators looking to fill the gap Curacao left behind.

Anjouan offers the quickest setup times in the world and some of the lowest fees. It also has a hands-off approach to regulation, which doesn’t mean it is a free-for-all; rather, it means operators are held responsible for maintaining their own best practices and compliance with minimal interference. In addition, it gives operators a license to open a bank account, partner with third-party payment gateways, and work with any other third parties requiring this bit of paper before doing business with you. While its rather unknown status might cause an initial hiccup or two with some third parties, when you partner with Fast Offshore, we can help you overcome them by reassuring them and informing them that the Anjouan license is reliable, reputable, and responsible.

Overall, the Anjouan license suits any operator licensed in Curacao or who thought Curacao ticked all their boxes. It offers low set-up and ongoing maintenance costs, hands-off regulatory approaches, minimal paperwork, quick and easy paperwork, and a simple approach to running an iGaming business. In addition, it offers operators access to key markets worldwide and on every continent, with no gaming tax and streamlined processes, meaning profit can come rolling in quicker than anywhere else.

Meanwhile, in the iGaming world, it is clear that there are two camps: those with the money and resources to go for tier one, such as Isle of Man, Malta and now, Curacao, or those who look at other options like Kahnawake, the Costa Rica gaming company (and its limitations), and, now the Anjouan license.

For now, Anjouan is the perfect option for those wanting a leg up into the iGaming world. Authorities vet every application and individual, checks are carried out, and rules are made to be adhered to. But its success lies in balancing it with a ‘hands-off’ approach favoring self-regulation in many ways.

The last word
As Curacao continues to find its way, stuck between the old and new regimes, Anjouan is going from strength to strength, offering an excellent location for startups and established businesses. It is also good as a first license, a stepping stone license, or a license used in conjunction with others to increase and further reach. Which path is right for you and your business depends on your circumstances, but of course, Fast Offshore can help you decide.

We have worked in iGaming for over 27 years, including in Curacao, Isle of Man, Malta, Kahnawake, Costa Rica, and of course, Anjouan. That makes us perfectly positioned to analyze the pros and cons, benefits, and negatives, and point you in the right direction of the jurisdiction for you. Our team of professionals are on hand to advise and guide, whatever your decision will be. All you have to do is contact us to find out more.

Related Links
Curaçao Online Gambling
Comoros Online Gambling
Fast Offshore

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