|Central America and the Caribbean are popular bases for sportsbooks and Internet casinos, owing to their sometimes lax gaming laws, cheap labor and English speaking labour for customer services – as well as their cheap taxes.|
Costa Rica, in sub-tropical Central America, has reaped the rewards of the online gambling industry: Costa Rica-based Web sites such as http://www.2betdsi.com and http://www.v-wager.com process millions of dollars of mostly US bets each day.
Sports books began setting up in Costa Rica in 1996. But now the government is threatening to take a slice of the pie through new fees or taxes. But will this kill the golden goose of online gambling? Gambling website operators say they will simply move on to the next gambling-friendly haven.
'Other countries are going to eat their lunch,' said the general manager of Diamond, who set up here in 1998 and just visited to Panama to scout for other possible sites.
Panama and Belize want the jobs and are offering free buildings, a low tax base and possibly subsidised telephone fees. Diamond pays 'astronomical' bills to Costa Rica's state telephone and Internet monopoly ICE, said the manager, who asked not to be identified.
Costa Rica should look to what happened to Antigua in the mid-1990s when the Caribbean island imposed new taxes. Sportsbooks left the island in droves.
Costa Rica’s reputation may also play upon the minds of gaming site operators, after arrests in New York this year of alleged members of organized crime families linked to sports books there.