Ukraine takes action against Russian gambling companies in Curaçao

KYIV, WILLEMSTAD – Ukraine has placed several online gambling companies on its sanctions list due to their ties with Russia. This includes several companies based in Curaçao, such as 1xBet. The investigative platform, Follow the Money, conducted an investigation on these companies in Curaçao and found a total of eight mailbox firms with Curaçao licenses that are on the sanctions list because they maintain ties with Russia. 


Follow the Money compared the names and addresses on the sanctions list with data from the Curaçao trade register to determine which gambling companies are affected, whether they have a Curaçao license, and which trust offices represent their interests. 


One of the most elusive betting sites in the world has been based in Willemstad for almost a decade. The anonymous facade at the address Chuchubiweg # 17 reveals nothing, and employees of the bookmaker do not show themselves here. 


Chuchubiweg #17


But the Curaçao address recently appeared on a Ukrainian sanctions list because 1xBet, the billion-dollar company that is active worldwide and registered there, has Russian owners. 


1xBet is not the only “Curaçao” company on the Ukrainian sanctions list. and are also on it; all are large, internationally operating gambling sites. They are officially based in Curaçao through trust offices and paper companies and use Curaçao gambling licenses. 


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently announced measures against hundreds of gambling companies, affiliated companies, and their owners and directors. The sanctions come from Ukraine’s security and defense council and target companies that have “acted against Ukraine’s interests.” 


Zelensky called the measures a step “against individuals and legal entities that have ties to the malicious state.” The people and companies on the list may not do business in Ukraine for half a century, and their assets will be blocked wherever possible. Ukraine is calling on the EU, US, and other countries to take action as well. 


The signal from Ukraine has now arrived in the Netherlands, as Follow the Money’s inquiry has revealed. Curaçao is an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but The Hague is responsible for foreign relations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in contact with Ukraine and other international partners regarding this matter, according to a ministry spokesman who cannot provide further details. 


“In general, all proposals for sanctions are open for discussion in the Netherlands. In particular, we attach great importance to the impact of proposed measures and unity among EU member states,” said the spokesman. 

No license? No problem 


Curaçao is a free port for gambling sites. Worldwide, thousands of websites operate under a Curaçao license, as was revealed earlier by Follow the Money’s investigation. The turnover of well-known names such as 1xBet and the (also Curaçao-based) crypto casino amounts to billions of dollars, according to the Financial Times in March. 


The online gambling industry in Curaçao is controlled by a small number of private companies; the master license holders, such as Curaçao eGaming and Antillephone. These companies obtained an official government license when they could, and now issue unlimited “sub-licenses” themselves. 


Licenses with mailbox addresses are offered in brochures with names like No License, No Platform, No Problem for a few tens of thousands of dollars per year. No one knows exactly how many sub-licenses have been issued, to whom, and where these gambling sites are active, let alone whether they comply with the rules. There is no oversight of the tangle of Curaçao licenses and mailbox firms. 

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