So, you’ve got an idea for an online gaming start-up? Before you start promoting the business and hiring staff, one of the most important decisions to make is about where you should set the company up.
Launching an online gaming business in your home country might be the obvious option since you will have a good idea of how the system works. Nevertheless, exploring offshore options is definitely worthwhile for a number of reasons:
- Low or no tax on profits, meaning you can invest in the business and grow more easily
- Low business registration and license fees
- Light-touch regulation and minimal auditing
There are many countries around the world which provide online gaming licenses for companies that wish to operate on their territory. However, not all countries that offer these licenses are the same. You will want to ensure they offer clear regulations, a trustworthy reputation and reliable internet connections.
Xace provides payment services to emerging digital industries such as iGaming. The following list covers 10 of the best locations for launching your online gaming start-up.
10 best countries for online betting, gaming, and casino start-ups
If you are considering setting up your online gaming business offshore, the following 10 destinations should be on your longlist:
Malta is an archipelago of islands in the Mediterranean between Italy and North Africa. The country has a high standard of living and is an EU member state. The Malta Gaming Authority regulates online gaming businesses and it was one of the first countries in the EU to create regulations around iGaming in 2004. Malta has high quality internet connections, a clear regulatory environment and is home to many major online gaming companies – all of which contributes to its reputation as the world’s gaming capital.
- License fees: €5,000 for initial application, plus annual fees starting at €25,000 depending on profits
- Tax: An effective rate of 5% on profits
Cyprus is another Mediterranean island with a highly respected regulatory environment and EU membership. It should be noted that only sports betting in Cyrpus and certain games of skill (such as poker) are permitted – online casinos cannot be licensed.
Cyprus’ National Betting Authority regulates the sector, and has been distributing licenses for online sports betting firms since 2016.
- License fees: €30,000 for a one-year license, or €45,000 for a two-year license
- Tax: A set tax rate of 13% on all revenues
Located in the Caribbean, Curaçao is under the jurisdiction of the Dutch crown, but is not a full part of the country. Curaçao is, for many start-ups, the number one destination for offshoring. The country established some of the world’s first online gaming regulations in 1996 and allows businesses to apply for one gaming license which covers all games of chance. Curaçao eGaming regulates the sector and hands out licenses.
- License fees: 60,000 ANG (about €28,000) plus 10,000 ANG (€4,700) per month for the first two years
- Tax: 2% net tax on profits
Antigua and Barbuda
Another Caribbean nation, Antigua and Barbuda are two islands in the West Indies. The country has possibly the longest established regulatory environment for online gaming firms, with rules in place since 1994. The Antigua Gaming Authority regulates the sector and issues licenses.
- License fees: USD $75,000 for sports betting sites, $100,000 for online casinos plus annual fees of around $75k
- Tax: 3%
Located in the Indian Ocean, the island state of Comoros has been providing offshore gaming licenses since 2005. Comoros stands out as one of the least bureaucratic, fast and efficient places to launch an offshore online gaming business. There are also relatively few restrictions to the license, meaning you can create numerous brands and website domain names under a single license. To apply, you must register with Anjouan Corporate Services who are responsible for issuing licenses.
- License fees: €20,000 then €15,000 annual renewal fee
- Tax: Offshore gaming businesses are tax exempt
Isle of Man
Located in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland, the Isle of Man first developed online gaming regulations in 2001. It offers a well-respected and professional licensing regime and a fairly straightforward application process. There is also just one license covering all gambling activities which makes things simple. The sector is regulated by the Gambling Supervision Commission.
- License fees: £5,000 on application and a £50,000 annual renewal fee
- Tax: 0%
Alderney is an island jurisdiction located in the English Channel between France and Britain, and is a British Crown dependency, meaning it has sovereign status within the UK. Alderney established its online gaming regulations in 2000 and is a respected provider of licenses. The Alderney Gambling Control Commission is responsible for providing licenses and auditing the sector.
- License fees: £17,500 plus renewal fees that vary depending on revenue
- Tax: 0%
This Central American nation has a somewhat unusual approach to online gaming licenses. Costa Rica does not actually have any regulations to manage how online gaming firms operate, but does allow offshore businesses who run gambling, casino or betting operations from the country. The lack of regulation may put some businesses off, but it does allow complete freedom.
- License fees: not applicable
- Tax: 0% on earnings from abroad
Gambling is hugely popular in Sweden and many of the world’s best-known online gaming firms have a presence in the country. While Sweden has higher taxes and fees than many other offshore destinations, it comes with a highly trusted regulatory environment, EU membership and high-quality telecommunications. Setting your business up in Sweden will give you easy access to skilled human resources and the benefits of working near other gaming firms. The industry is regulated by the Swedish Gambling Authority.
- License fees: 400,000 SEK (€39,000)
- Tax: 22% corporate tax rate
The UK, like Sweden, is another ‘big’ gambling country with higher tax rates and license fees. However, the benefits of setting up there are significant. The UK has a large betting culture, with off the chart gambling statistics UK 2021, and the UK Gambling Commission, its regulatory authority, offers gold standard rules and regulations. Like Sweden, starting up in a ‘big’ country means you have access to many support services, can find staff for your company relatively easily and enter business networks with your peers.
- License fees: £5,711 for initial application and varying annual fees
- Tax: 21%
Where will you start up your online gaming business?
Choosing the right location to base your online gaming start-up is a crucial decision. The destination you choose may well affect your ability to grow, experiment and attract customers. Every business is different, and so there is no one destination that is ‘the best’. A company that is looking for the lowest tax and lightest touch regulations might opt for Costa Rica. A start-up that wants access to business networks and a pool of talented employees might find it more suitable to launch in the UK.
Whatever option you choose, you will need an account partner to process payments and manage your money. With our in-depth knowledge of the gaming sector and the complexities of offshore finance, Xace can provide services perfectly suited to your needs. Apply for your gaming account today.