The fourth Dutch Caribbean Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Gaming Regulation Forum was opened officially opened this week by Economic Affairs Minister Stuart Johnson at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort Casino in St. Maarten.
The event brings together key stakeholders including banks, compliance officers and internal risk managers; central banks, regulatory and supervisory bodies; financial intelligence units, treasury and revenue law enforcement; casinos, lotteries, slot and arcade operators; and designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs).
In his opening address to stakeholders, Johnson said: “Anti-money-laundering and proper gaming practices are not just about making sure the money spent on our islands can be accurately accounted for. Throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world, economic trends and challenges to maintain legitimacy in business practices continue to play a pivotal role in how we do business.
“Whether we are prepared and address the obstacles appropriately or sweep them beneath the proverbial rug will affect the type of activities we attract. This is a significant concern for the government of St. Maarten, especially considering that investment in primarily tourism-driven destinations such as ours is critical for our future economic sustainability.
“We now know that some businesses in St. Maarten sell the United States (US) Lottery Powerball and other games, which have clear cross-border sales restrictions. These restrictions will make it near impossible for legitimate winners from St. Maarten to lay claim to their jackpots in the US. We have a responsibility to educate players and we have to do so with the understanding that because … get rich, chance games will remain enticing to everyone who has a dream.”
Johnson added that not all numbers games are operating illegally. “Institutions such as the IGT that is publicly traded and offers the Caribbean Lottery Numbers games across the region have had a long-standing track record of above-ground practices. To ensure more such businesses can operate and contribute to the coffers of the government, we must now move to protect the legitimacy of the gaming industry and ensure strict regulations to decriminalize the gaming industry and stop the island from being blacklisted.”
The Minister went on to caution: “Without the right gaming regulations and proper anti-money-laundering practices, we put our economy and our people at risk. It will be irresponsible of us as government to allow this to occur. Amongst the risks are having bank transfers blocked and increased de-risking by banks. This will mean that many businesses would have to hide their money under a mattress because the banks would no longer accept it. Ultimately, this will create a trend that will cripple our economy, as we would no longer be able to do business with many international companies.”