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Getting an online gaming license is an essential step in starting an online casino or sportsbook business. Some operators may find the application process daunting, but in the long run, it’s well worth the time and money. Keep reading to find out why prospective operators should apply for a license — as well as how and where to do it.

Online gambling regulations vary from country to country, but in almost all of them, getting a gaming license is one of the first things for new operators to consider when thinking about how to start an online casino. Some operators may balk at the application and licensing fees, but the benefits of a license far outweigh the costs.

Successful businesses plan ahead. When a new casino operator looks into their long-term prospects, they’ll find that aside from granting legal stability, an online gaming license is a ticket to cooperation with financial institutions and quality game developers, as well as a sign of a trustworthy reputation that players will respect.

Governments in many countries require operators to obtain a license from their domestic regulators. However, there are also a number of offshore jurisdictions that issue gambling licenses, letting online casinos and sportsbooks reach an international audience. Malta, Curaçao, Gibraltar, Anjouan, Costa Rica, Estonia, the Isle of Man, and the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake all offer licenses to organize gambling activities.

Why get an online gambling license?

New operators inevitably look at the cost and requirements of getting an online gaming license and ask themselves if applying is even worthwhile. Application fees, licensing fees, and taxes can put a strain on a casino’s budget and chew into profit margins. And that’s if you manage to get the license in the first place — many jurisdictions have tough, bureaucratic application processes that new operators find discouraging.

We offer consultancy services and complete package solutions for gambling license acquisition that include:

  • Gambling jurisdiction and business advisory
  • Gambling business corporate structure incorporation
  • Opening bank accounts
  • Gambling license application

But in the long run (and you should be in the business for the long run) the benefits of getting an online casino license far outweigh the disadvantages. Black market operators will hit serious roadblocks on the way to growth and expansion.

Most banks and financial institutions will refuse to process transactions related to gambling if the casino is unlicensed. Licensing authorities usually carry out background checks to ensure the applicant has no criminal record; banks view licenses as a guarantee their institution won’t be used for money laundering.

The same goes for the most prominent payment service providers in the industry — no license, no deal. As players’ payment method preferences evolve along with the exploding popularity of cryptocurrencies, it’s getting more and more critical that online casino platforms support a range of traditional and innovative new payment methods. In all likelihood, the payment service provider your platform needs will need you to have a license before starting cooperation.

To bring in new players, retain loyal ones, and expand into new markets, online casinos need a diverse portfolio of premium-quality game content. From fresh twists on classic fruit slots to electrifying versions of live dealer games, the best game developers in the industry are constantly releasing new content designed to grab players’ attention and hold on to it. However, like banks and payment service providers, game developers will very often only cooperate with licensed casinos — sometimes only with platforms licensed by the same regulator they are.

Aside from the limits imposed on their business development, unlicensed casinos also face legal instability. Depending on the jurisdiction where your business is incorporated, there are a range of legal ramifications for organizing unlicensed gambling activities, including fines and prison time. The site could also be blocked by authorities, and the business’s assets could be frozen.

Player acquisition and retention are essential. Licensed operators are able to advertise their platforms in accordance with the regulations of the jurisdictions where they operate. These can be sometimes restrictive, but it’s a far cry from not being able to advertise at all.

Last, an online casino’s most valuable asset is its reputation. Earning players’ trust can help you build a sustainable brand that will flourish. The license is the first thing players will check before signing up. Players who have been around the block a few times and no longer find bonuses and free spins impressive will base their decision to sign up for a casino on reviews left by fellow players — and having a license is the first step towards making sure those reviews shine.

All in all, having a gaming license opens up opportunities that an online casino needs in order to grow. Licensing fees may be high, but a well-run online casino or sportsbook should easily afford them.

Where to apply for an online gaming license

While regulators in many countries require operators to hold a local license, there are a number of jurisdictions around the world that issue licenses which enjoy international recognition. Operators often get started or expand their operations by getting licensed in one of the following jurisdictions:

Curaçao

The Caribbean island of Curaçao is one of iGaming’s oldest regulators, having started to issue licenses in 1996. The island’s modern infrastructure and business-friendly tax rates make it a popular location for international industries. The Curaçao Gaming License is highly sought after, especially for new operators.

Previously, Curaçao’s system had two types of license — a master license and a sub-license. New operators applied for a sub-license from a master license holder (the four master license holders have been fixed since 1996). Master licenses were valid for five years at a time and sub-licenses were valid for as long as their master license was.

Each master license holder set its own requirements and fees, but there were a few features common to all of them. Most importantly, the sub-license allows the holder to organize all kinds of casino gaming and sports betting, whereas some other authorities required an additional license for each kind of activity the licensee wants to offer.

However, a new bill that changed the licensing system in Curaçao was implemented on September 1, 2023.

One of the changes is the creation of a new autonomous regulatory entity called the Curaçao Gaming Authority. This entity will replace the existing Curaçao Gaming Control Board. Instead of the former master license/sublicense framework, the new authority will issue separate licenses for Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) operations to new entrants in the gambling sector.

Existing sub-licensees will be granted a transition period, during which they can convert their sub-licenses into temporary transitional licenses. To facilitate this transition, an 18-month grace period will be provided. The new licenses will carry stricter controls, including measures against money laundering and a requirement for licensees to employ at least three key personnel on the island.

As part of this transformation, any company seeking a new Curaçao license will be expected to pay an application fee of €4,000 and an annual license fee of €12,000. Additionally, companies will be required to nominate key personnel responsible for supervising anti-money laundering initiatives and the formulation of a responsible gambling policy.

Curaçao licensees do face some restrictions. They are forbidden from accepting players from the USA, France, the Netherlands, and Curaçao itself, among other countries. But all in all, the Curaçao gaming license is the first choice of many new operators.

Anjouan

Anjouan, located in the Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique, has historically been overlooked in the iGaming sector. However, in recent times, it has become a favored destination for operators seeking to secure licenses and offer their services. This is due to the straightforward application procedure and the adaptability of the licenses available.

Unlike some other regions where distinct licenses are required for different gambling activities, Anjouan permits license holders to manage various forms of gambling using a single license. Licensees on Anjouan must uphold stringent standards, but many operators still view obtaining a gambling license on the island as a valuable endeavor.

As part of the swift and simplified licensing process, all applicants must submit a business plan, platform terms and conditions, and their protocols for Know Your Customer (KYC), anti-money laundering (AML), prevention of underage participation, and ensuring fair play.

During the process of obtaining an Anjouan Island license, applicants undergo meticulous data authentication and technical compliance evaluations. Regulatory bodies also verify the financial stability, business standing, and adherence to all legal and regulatory prerequisites.

Following the successful completion of the licensing process, operators can establish their iGaming operations on the island, taking advantage of its 0% tax rate. The license is valid for one year with the option for renewal.

Malta

The Mediterranean island of Malta is known as the home of European iGaming. The Malta Gambling Authority (MGA) license is one of the world’s most prestigious, and enjoys recognition throughout Europe. Compared to Curaçao, the Malta gambling license is more expensive, and usually chosen by more established operators looking to break into the prosperous European market.

Unlike Curaçao, Malta offers four classes of license, each of which allows the holder to organize a different kind of activity. Licenses are valid for 10 years.

Type 1Allows operators to organize games of chance where the result is determined by a Random Number Generator (e.g. slots).
Type 2Allows operators to organize games where the outcome is determined by the result of an event (e.g. sports betting).
Type 3Allows operators to organize games of chance that generate revenue by commission based on stakes (e.g. poker).
Type 4Allows operators to organize controlled skill games with a result based on aggregated statistical performance (e.g. fantasy sports).

A regulatory restructuring in 2018 streamlined the taxation system, removed the need for current license holders to apply for separate licenses, and waived the monthly compliance contribution for the first 12 months of a casino’s operation.

Malta is home to SiGMA, one of the largest and most renowned international iGaming exhibitions, and due to its status as an international hub of the online gambling industry, the island has become home to every type of iGaming professional you might need.

The MGA is known for having a rigorous licensing process. It includes:

  • Fit and proper check.
  • Business planning check (MGA ensures the viability of the applicant’s business plan).
  • Operation and statutory requirements check (incorporation documents, verticals, terms and conditions, policies and procedures, financial reserves — €100,000 for licenses 1 and 2, €40,000 for licenses 3 and 4).
  • System review (applicant begins operations and a qualified refers checks that all is in order).
  • Compliance check (within 90 days of going live, a compliance auditor confirms that the operator is adhering to regulations).

Kahnawake

The Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake in Quebec is home to the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which has been issuing licenses since 1999. Operators apply for a Client Provider Authorization, which enables them to organize all kinds of casino gaming and sports betting — except for live casino games, for which the KGC offers a Live Dealer Studio Authorization. Additionally, operators will need a Key Persons Permit for at least one of their critical personnel.

The KGC license offers a few clear incentives for operators; the corporate tax rate is 0%, with no additional gaming tax. The reduced financial burden can be especially helpful during a casino’s first few years of operation as it builds up its player base.

The initial license is valid for 6 months before the project is reviewed. If the project satisfies authorities and there isn’t a substantial number of player complaints, the next license, valid for five years, is issued.

Due to the KGC’s commitment to fair and transparent gaming, the Kahnawake gaming license has a good reputation among players.

The KGC has a five-step licensing process.

  1. Appoint a key person
  2. Gather the necessary paperwork
  3. Submit your application and pay the application fee
  4. Wait approximately four to eight weeks
  5. Launch online casino

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a significant player in the Latin American gambling industry, but it lacks official regulation and licensing for online gambling operators. However, there are ways to establish a legal online gambling business in the country.

The 1922 Gambling Law initially banned all games of chance, but subsequent regulations and government interpretations paved the way for a legalized gambling sector, including land-based casinos within hotels and state-controlled betting.

However, the situation is different for online gambling.

The current legal interpretation states that online gambling is determined by where player-operator transactions are processed, not the operator's location. While obtaining a gambling license is not possible, the government tolerates online gambling companies operating within Costa Rica, as long as they don't process transactions through local banks and avoid offering services to Costa Rican residents.

To operate legally, online gambling operators in Costa Rica must register their companies with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Economy, which requires a physical presence. Required documentation includes proof of legal capacity, corporate identification, identification of natural applicants (with authorized residence certification for foreigners), land use rights, and fulfillment of tax obligations.

Operating an online gambling business from Costa Rica offers benefits such as tax-free internet gambling revenues and exemption from most marketing and responsible gambling restrictions, although anti-money laundering regulations still apply.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar is an overseas British territory that issues licenses which are respected around the world. The Licensing Authority issues six kinds of license, and operators need a separate license for each product they wish to offer.

Licenses offered by the Gibraltar Licensing Authority:

  • Remote Gaming B2C Operator
  • Remote Betting B2C Operator
  • Other Remote B2C Gambling Products
  • Gambling B2B Support Services
  • Non-Remote B2C Gaming Operator
  • Non-Remote B2C Betting Operator

The advantages of the Gibraltar gaming license include a straightforward pricing structure, an outstanding reputation, and reliable governance. Online gaming and betting businesses also find the low tax rates appealing; taxes are 1% of revenue, capped at £425,000 with a minimum of £85,000.

The Gibraltar license is a less common choice for new or inexperienced operators; the Licensing Authority traditionally only considers applications from established operators with licenses from other jurisdictions, significant finances, and a solid business plan.

Applicants must also provide information about key personnel, and verify that the business will be controlled from Gibraltar. Gambling products should be certified and compliant with Gibraltar’s regulations.

Instead of charging annual license renewal fees — and all the fees that come along with application processes — the Licensing Authority charges a single lump sum; remote operator licenses cost £100,000 for a five-year license.

Estonia

The gambling sector is often marked by volatility, but Estonia, a Baltic nation, stands out as a beacon of stability and prosperity. Estonia boasts a well-regulated gambling market supported by robust legislation, transparent licensing procedures, and a clear taxation framework.

The country also has political stability, a first-class telecommunications infrastructure and a well-developed financial services sector. In addition, it offers an attractive environment for international online gaming businesses.

In a nutshell, Estonia's gambling market is thriving. Its gambling market has been regulated since 1995, initially focusing on land-based casinos and lotteries, but in recent years it has shifted its focus to online gaming. By introducing only a 5% online gambling tax, Estonia has made its country an attractive destination for operators.

An Estonian gambling license provides licensees with many promising opportunities, significantly increasing the profitability of their business. This license is internationally recognized, which, once acquired, expands your potential customer base on a global scale.

To obtain an Estonia Gambling License, our experts submit applications to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board for evaluation. Estonia issues a single Online Gambling license that covers all aspects of gaming operations, including iGaming service providers, network operators, affiliates, white-label operators, and iGaming software suppliers.

Isle of Man

The Isle of Man is a British Crown Dependency in the Irish Sea. The Gambling Supervision Commission started to regulate online gambling in 2001, and currently issues several types of license based on the class of company (B2C licensees can organize all types of gambling activity).

The Isle of Man does not have a blacklist of forbidden markets, but licensees are expected not to enter markets where gambling is prohibited. The low gaming tax of 0.1% to 1.5% of GGY and lack of a capital gains tax likely stem from authorities’ focus on supporting the private sector. The government also supports blockchain.

Applicants must satisfy a series of requirements.

  • The company must be incorporated in the Isle of Man.
  • The company must have two resident directors and a designated official or operations manager.
  • B2C licensees must register players in servers on the Isle of Man.
  • Potential licensees must pay an application fee of £5,000 (€5,700).
  • All games, RNGs, and gambling systems must be approved.
  • Key persons and those with over 5% stake in the company will be subject to due diligence checks.

How to apply for an online gambling license

Every licensing authority has its own application process. Generally, you can count on paying fees, filling out lots of paperwork, and waiting for at least two or three months.

Some of the most common requirements include:

  • Background check
  • Business plan
  • Proof of sufficient funds
  • Software checks
  • Compliance checks
  • Incorporation within the licensor’s jurisdiction
  • Server location (often must be within the licensor’s jurisdiction)

Often, licensing authorities enforce certain standards that the platform software must adhere to, so it can help your chances of a successful application to cooperate with a licensed, reputable software provider.

Applying for an online casino or sportsbook license is no walk in the park — and there’s no guarantee of getting the license in the end. Even a minor mistake on an application form can spoil the whole process and send the applicant back to square one.

To avoid wasting time and money, it’s a very common practice for potential operators to seek jurisdictional advice and services from a legal team with experience in the field of iGaming licensing.

How much does an online gambling license cost?

Every licensing body has its own set of fees and taxes. The tables below show some of the fees levied by several prominent regulators (casino license cost).

Malta

Application fee for a new license€5,000
Application fee for license renewal€5,000
Key function certificate€50
Transfer of a qualifying interest€1,500
Application fee for material supply certificate€1,000
Non-refundable fixed annual license fee types 1, 2, and 3€25,000
Non-refundable fixed annual license fee type 4€10,000
Compliance contributionSchedule of fees depending on revenue. Read more here.

Isle of Man

Application fee£5,000 (approx. €5,600)
Annual license fee£35,000 (approx. €39,000)
Tax

Gambling Yield greater than £20 million but less than £40 million (€45 million) — 0.5%

Gambling Yield greater than £40 million — 0.1%

Kahnawake

Application fee$35,000 (€29,000)
Key persons application fee$5,000 (€4,130)
Annual licensing fee$20,000 (€16,500)
Annual Key Person permit fee$1,000 (€825)
CPA renewal $5,000 (€4,130)
Key Person permit renewal$2,500 (€2,000)

Gibraltar

License fee£100,000 (€114,000) for a five-year license
Taxes1% Revenue tax. Minimum: £85,000 (€96,800). Maximum: £425,000 (€484,100)

Estonia, Anjouan and Costa Rica

Further information about pricing is available upon request.

Curaçao

At the moment, the legislation of Curaçao is undergoing significant changes. Stay tuned for updates in the “Industry news” section.

How do you choose an online casino license?

There are a number of factors to take into account when choosing a jurisdiction. Some of the things you’ll have to consider include:

  • Licensing fee
  • Your level of experience
  • How many licenses you’ll need
  • Administrative costs
  • Taxes
  • International recognition
  • Licensing requirements for other companies you’ll be cooperating with
  • Type of operation you’ll be running (Casino gaming / sportsbook / other)

How can Slotegrator help you get an online gaming license?

Simply choosing a licensing jurisdiction is difficult enough to begin with. With all the different factors that operators have to weigh — business model, products you intend to offer, licensing fees and taxes, restricted markets — the choice can be overwhelming.

Even after a new operator has settled on a jurisdiction, mountains of paperwork and an often bureaucratic application process can leave potential operators frustrated and confused — not to mention disappointed, if a minor-slip on one of their many forms snowballs into total rejection.

Our jurisdictional and advisory services can help at every step of the way. Starting with figuring out which jurisdiction best fits your business structure and goals, our legal team then takes over and handles the application process on your behalf, leaving you free to focus on business development and making sure you won’t put a foot wrong.

Get in touch today to take the first step towards a successful online casino or sportsbook.

Petr Stehlik
Petr Stehlik
Lawyer
In 2016, Petr graduated from the Law Faculty of Charles University in Prague. The main area of law on which he focused both during and after his university studies is software law (and intellectual property in general). After graduating, he briefly worked at a medium-sized law firm in Prague, but in 2018 he joined Slotegrator, where he has been working ever since and where he handles the company’s day-to-day legal matters.

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