Sunday 4 June 2023

Casinos Facing An Uphill Battle to Get Licences in Costa Rica in 2023

How does the casino licensing process work in Costa Rica? We navigate the tricky waters in setting up an online casino

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Central American casino licenses can be hard to come by, and Costa Rica is no different. Within the law proper, Costa Ricans are not supposed to gamble at all. However, in practice, state-run gambling is both legal and a monopoly of the state.

Here, in Costa Rica, there is no such thing as a gambling license. For casinos, especially online casinos, this poses a bit of a conundrum. How can you get a license to operate a casino in Costa Rica when it doesn’t even exist?

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With online gambling being legalized and regulated across the globe, there’s no doubt that new no deposit casino websites have their sights set on Costa Rica.

Does Costa Rica provide casino licenses?

Online casino licenses, however, simply do not exist in Costa Rica. There is no regulating body that oversees online casino gambling in the country. This hasn’t stopped some people from setting up these sites in Costa Rica. The fact of the matter is that you can register a business, and so long as it doesn’t serve customers within the country and payments aren’t processed by the country’s banks, the company is allowed to operate as is.

Land-based casinos are overseen from a financial perspective by SUGEF (Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras), the main financial regulatory agency in the country. Casinos must be registered with SUGEF.

Why would online casinos want to set up shop in Costa Rica without a gambling license?

The reason that online casinos may be founded in Costa Rica is not to do with easy licensing, as it is in countries like Curacao, but to do with the business taxation structure. Although Costa Rica isn’t as well-known as a tax haven, as say, the Cayman Islands, it offers very attractive terms to corporations whose business revenues are derived from outside of the country, offering up to 0% local taxes. This is on top of an eight-year tax exemption for many companies.

This makes setting up a company in Costa Rica a great choice for companies looking to minimize their taxes.

The Costa Rican Free Trade Zones

The Costa Rican Free Trade Zones offer various different benefits to companies that provide goods and services for export and are designed to stimulate wealth within the country by foreign investment. In different zones, the minimum investment is between $100,000 and $150,000 and companies can enjoy such perks as 100% tax exemption from import and export duties, excise taxes, and more. Some companies, depending on the structure and goods and services offered, have a 100% exemption on corporate income tax for eight years, and then a 50% exemption for four years afterward.

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While setting up a company within a Costa Rican Free Trade Zone is a lot of legal paperwork, many businesses see it as an attractive option versus registering their business onshore and paying more tax.

Combining a Costa Rican business with another license

For online casino companies that do manage to set up a business operating out of Costa Rica, they will want to obtain a gaming license from somewhere to prove to players that their casino systems are fair and true. Since this isn’t available in Costa Rica itself, they will have to look elsewhere.

The easiest gambling licenses to attain for businesses whose operations are headed in another country include Curacao, Malta, Gibraltar, and the Isle of Man. These are considered some of the most lenient jurisdictions in terms of the cost to obtain and keep a license, the terms of operation of a gambling business, and ease of use.

By combining an offshore gambling license from one of these jurisdictions with a Costa Rican-based business license, with a business that is actually run mainly offshore, gambling providers can weave a web that allows them to make the greatest ROI.

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While it certainly isn’t an easy process, and you might have to jump through quite a few hoops (or loopholes) to ensure everything is done legally, it can lead to a lucrative investment and even residency in Costa Rica should you so wish.

Shaky ground for Costa-Rican based online casinos

Online casinos based in Costa Rica need to ensure that their operations always fall within the law in the country or be at risk of being dissolved, or worse, charged with crimes.

It is impossible to run an online casino based in Costa Rica without the help of a very clever local lawyer on your side who knows offshore business laws very well and stays up to date with corporate tax changes and responsibilities.

If you are looking for an easy place to set up an online casino, Costa Rica isn’t exactly it.


Author’s Bio: As a Senior Writer, part of Arabella Visser’s job is to read up on the latest happenings within the online gambling industry, particularly about jurisdictions which have yet be greenlit to legalize and regulate this increasingly popular pastime. When she’s not immersed into this exciting sector and all the colorful updates it offers on the daily, she loves visiting her local library and discovering old books hidden away in some dusty nook.

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