New gaming regulator for Costa Rica ?

Long on operators and short on real regulation is the widely held player perception of the Costa Rica licensing jurisdiction in online gambling. Whilst the Central American country is home to many large gambling operators, it's support for player disputes with online gambling venues is not generally well regarded.

That may be all about to change, according to reports in the local media which inform that government plans to introduce legislation which will see all licensees in the country - both land and online - brought under the real authority of a national regulator. The reports cite the worsening economic situation as the spur for the new interest in a proper regulatory regime.

The finance minister, Guillermo Zuniga, has proposed hiking the tax on gambling operator gross revenues by 2 percent to help weather the economic storm, and he has apparently confirmed that there will be more meaningful controls on operators flowing from the new legislation.

The Finance Ministry expects to realise an additional $85 million a year from the tax hike.

Zuniga told reporters that the new gambling arrangements would see a regulatory body with responsbilities to several ministries issuing licenses and policing the operation of licensees. It would be given authority over both land and online gambling operations, he advised. The minister added that the decision to form a regulatory body brought Costa Rica in line with the international trend to regulate and license gambling.

Online gambling activity has never been formally regulated under Costa Rica’s gambling laws, with Internet operators instead taking out business-oriented licenses on the understanding that they will not allow locals to wager. Previous attempts to control online gambling by the government have not been particularly successful. In 2003 a law was passed requiring online gambling operators to register with the Ministry of Finance (see previous InfoPowa report) and generally inconclusive debate has taken place among lawmakers in the National Assembly from time to time.

Media reports to date do not offer clarity on how a new regulator might apply taxation, licensing and compliance procedures.

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