What’s the difference between regulating and over-regulating?
About 3 to 4 years ago parliament passed a law in an effort to raise capital for the central bank, an additional transfer tax, facilitating maximum dollar-flow control.
The new law concerned the island casinos, all 13 of them, because now they were all considered currency-exchange businesses, just like Western Union, for example, and had to apply for a special license, design to beat money-laundering, with a lengthy and expensive vetting system.
More paperwork to fill, more stamps to collect, more fees to pay.
Our larger casinos, were not planning to apply. They belong to publicly traded companies and the long process and the disclosures required were impossible to fulfill.
The smaller properties, could not afford the vetting, and some of them, were unprepared to subject themselves to over-regulation, and admittedly over-scrutiny.
They pleaded with the Central Bank to relent, to no avail. The regulation dragged on, the deadline extended, and finally on July 1st, 2020 it goes into effect whereby the casinos can no longer accept florins, to be changed into dollars — the currency of gaming — and an agreement was brokered with the banks to become the go-betweens.
Local clients will use an ATM, installed and serviced by the banks, to withdraw dollars, with which to play.
The current practice of exchanging florins against dollars, at a fixed 1.80 rate, at the casino cage, is illegal from Wednesday on.
Bank charges. currency exchange fees, service, energy, cleaning, printing, and counting surcharges are to be expected.
Will this move create a healthier casino economy, or will it just become a punishing hurdle, for the local grandmas and grandpas, who use casinos for distraction, excitement, and entertainment, in a naïve attempt to improve their finances, in air-condition?
(What else is there to do on the island for that forgotten demographic?)
The casinos are already a fantastic source of income for GOA, considering the drop tax, GOA takes the first bite, as soon the cash hits the bucket.
Local clients, withdrawing money from the ATM, will now be limited to the dollar equivalent of Awg 1,000 a day, as we have to protect our florin, use it in the economy, and regulate the disbursal of dollars.
I can think of a million ways to circumvent that over-regulation, and certain clients will continue to come in with wads of cash.
Casinos always suffer from a dual reputation, on one hand they are used as cash cows and on the other they are viewed as sinful, problematic dens of addiction, and a source of abundant social problems. While in the early days of tourism here, gaming was an important economic pillar, it has in recent years suffered a downgrade with the growth of on-line gaming, and a more religious-puritanical view of adrenaline-pumping gambling.
“It’s entertainment,” says, a casino executive I talked to, “it’s a service to our guests, same as the spa or the golf course, it should be nurtured, and supported as much as any other niche market. Alas, in Aruba, the gaming industry is the step-child of tourism, taxed to the max, then ignored, neglected and forgotten.”
“My grandma, is all fired up,” said my printer’s traffic-manager, “she already has her dollars in hand, she got them from my uncle, she will be at the casino, Saturday, at 10:55am, making sure she is the first one in.”