Casinos in the spotlight, but still no Gaming Control Board

POSTED: 09/9/11 1:55 PM

GREAT BAY, St. Maarten – Casinos are back in the spotlight with the granting of the Dolphin license to Millenium Star N.V. (the spelling mistake in Millenium is not ours; this is the actual name of the company). That brings also another topic to the forefront: the non-existing Gaming Control Board. This is one of the longest running gags in St. Maarten’s political history.
It starts on October 29, 1996, when Coopers & Lybrand published a study about the local casino industry. Basically, Coopers found that there are too many casinos and that the government ought to put a moratorium in place. In December of that year the executive council published its casino policy under the title rules of the Game.
The very last paragraph of this policy reads as follows: “Government intends to implement a financial control mechanism for all casinos.”
It took almost fifteen years, until April 2009, for members of the Dutch Second Chamber to wake up to the fact that maybe something wasn’t kosher with the casinos in St. Maarten. They urged then State Secretary Ank Bijleveld-Schouten to push for the establishment of a Gaming Control Board. The state secretary obliged, but until this day the result is exactly zero.
Bijleveld said at the time that the discussion with St. Maarten about establishing a Gaming Control Board had been ongoing for years.
The state secretary underlined the importance of having such a supervisory board for the casino industry. It plays a part, for instance, as a tool against money laundering, something the Financial Action Task Force will look at when it has to decide whether St. Maarten belongs on the white list of countries that are doing enough to combat money laundering, or on the blacklist of countries that are doing bugger all.
Bijleveld also told the Dutch Parliament something everybody conveniently forgot when the time came to grant St. Maarten its status as an autonomous country. “Complying with the FATF’s recommendations is one of the criteria St. Maarten needs to meet to acquire country status in the Dutch Kingdom.”
St. Maarten did not establish a Gaming Control Board and it does not look like the government is in a hurry to correct the situation. Yet, the US State Department concluded in its 2008 International Narcotics Control Strategy report that money laundering through brick and mortar casinos was growing at an alarming rate; and the Netherlands Antilles at that time had 30 casinos, Aruba another eleven.
On May 2, St. Maarten became a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, and this organization has already planned an inspection tour for early 2012. If by then, there still is no Gaming Control Board, the FATF will wonder who controls the ten stand-alone casinos and the gambling venues at hotels with more than 200 rooms.

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