The question of whether to allow online gambling is a tricky one for many countries across the world. Many are concerned about the effect of the practice on certain individuals who cannot stay within their limits and the social problems that this might bring.
On the other hand, gambling can have a huge benefit for national and provincial economies as we have seen in a number of cases worldwide. In addition, by allowing gambling, in whole or in part, it helps to keep the sector ‘above ground.’
So where does Antigua stand on gambling and how does that approach compare with the rest of the world?
The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are very open when it comes to gambling and the practice is legal throughout the region. Of course, players will have had to have reached legal gambling age but from that point, it is perfectly possible to enjoy online betting and casino play and there are some bricks and mortar establishments in place too.
Antigua and Barbuda have six combined casinos located across the two islands where slots, plus table and card games are in evidence.
Aside from the age requirement, there is just one main proviso when it comes to gambling here. Any operator looking to provide betting or casino services must acquire a license issued by the Director of Offshore Gambling
Antigua issues a number of gambling licenses each year and it has done so since 1994. It is, therefore, one of the most progressive locations in the Western hemisphere and that open approach has seen significant benefits to the local economy. Around $3.5 billion in revenue is claimed each and every year and that’s clearly given the national coffers a welcome boost.
That is the position as far as Antigua is concerned but how does the practise compare with other parts of the world?
If we’re looking for a direct comparison to Antigua, we have to travel some distance. Mainland Europe and the United Kingdom are more likely options when it comes to finding countries with an equally welcoming approach to the gambling sector.
Starting with Great Britain, revenue from online casino, sports betting, bingo and lottery play now exceeds £14 billion every year. In purely financial terms, that’s a big increase on the returns seen in Antigua but when we factor in the sizes of the two populations, those figures are more comparable. It’s for this reason that the UK has earned itself the reputation as a gambling powerhouse, with the majority of the most famous online casinos all being based in the UK. The competition is huge, so to thrive in the UK online casinos must be exceptional to succeed, 888 Casino is a prime example of an outstanding UK online casino that successfully ticks all the boxes.
The UK is a good example in many ways. That revenue is made up of profits gleaned from direct stakes and, there is a substantial amount of money coming in via taxes. In 2014, changes in tax laws here meant that operators would now have to pay tax on point of sale. Previously, the tax was applied on point of origin and that simple amendment has seen income increase significantly.
Online casino and sports betting is extremely popular here and the open approach to gambling has helped that to develop. Unlike Antigua, the United Kingdom doesn’t issue gambling licenses although that practise does take place at the offshore and autonomous Isle of Man off the north west coast.
The example in the UK is mirrored around much of western Europe. There are examples where gambling is highly restricted but for much of the continent, the practice is welcomed and it brings big advantages to the local economy.
Germany is another country where that open approach is in evidence. As we move further afield and outside of Europe, there are vast areas of Asia where the population are fanatical about betting on sport and taking advantage of open casino play. We can see how those benefits can be felt around the respective regions but not all countries are so welcoming.
Not so Accommodating
To find countries that aren’t so accommodating to the practice of online gambling and gambling in person, we don’t have to move very far. Inside most countries in the Caribbean, the practice is either highly restricted or, it is outlawed altogether.
In Jamaica, for example, residents are forbidden to gamble online but for tourists who are just passing through, it’s fine to access a website and place some bets. It’s an odd approach but it’s one that is replicated elsewhere.
Moving further North and into the United States, certain States are now allowing online betting and casino play. It’s a slow process nationwide, and there are many regions that continue to outlaw the practice.
In Canada, it is legal for citizens to play with authorized operators but the practice is highly regulated. The government applies stringent regulations on any gambling company looking to set up within Canada and, as a result, citizens mainly use offshore operators.
Compared to other countries in the region, Antigua are already very open towards gambling, both in the online realms and in the physical world. Options for extending gambling’s reach are, therefore, fairly small but perhaps there could be more developments in the years that lie ahead.
Casino tourism is big business and, with six bricks and mortar establishments already in place on two small islands, it can be argued that coverage is more than adequate. However, this is the land of 365 beaches – one for every day of the year – and there could always be scope for a seventh casino to break ground. Similarly, the authorities in the country will want to look to issue more of those licenses, if they want to encourage competition and to allow more operators to open accounts for local residents.
Tourism is such an important area of revenue for Antigua and Barbuda that extra casinos may be a logical extension if the demand is there. The question of financing is, potentially, an obvious barrier but interest in casino play continues to grow and, if they want revenues to increase, Antigua’s government must decide how it can develop alongside.