What is the Panama Gaming Control Board?
The PGCB issues a land-based or online gambling license to any casino or 'game of chance' operator in the Republic of Panama and ensures they run legally and prioritise player protection. This Central American country is bordered by Costa Rica and Colombia, and is known to be a narrow land bridge connecting North and South America. Although the PGCB was originally founded in 1947, Panama saw both a gambling boom and an increase in fraudulent issues surface within its gambling industry in 1997. Due to this, the Gaming Commission within Panama's Ministry of Economics and Finance – the PGCB - was tasked with the challenge of controlling casinos, issuing licenses, and most importantly, keeping an eye on money laundering concerns in the Republic of Panama.
Today, they have implemented many systems to regulate, control and prevent fraudulent activities in online gambling, betting, and gaming companies in this region. Land-based gambling activities are strictly controlled, and in order to receive a brick-and-mortar license from the PGCB, applicants and operations need to adhere to strict rules and standards. However, there have been reports and instances in the past that indicate that licensing for online gambling companies is conducted in a more relaxed fashion. Online gambling companies in Panama are not strictly audited, and player protection and regulations are not severely enforced. Operators that have the money to pay the fees and do not conduct anything extremely conspicuous or illegal can obtain and maintain their Panamanian gaming license. Therefore, the reputability of a Panama licensed online casino and gambling business can vary greatly.
Popular Online Casinos Licensed by the Panama Gaming Control Board
Over the last few years, the value and respect of the PGCB has declined. In addition to this, the number of PGCB licensed online betting platforms has decreased as well. It is found that most online gaming companies in Panama gravitate towards Curacao and Malta's licensing options. This is due to a bad reputation, and the reluctance of payment processors and financial institutions to work with Panama’s online gambling operations, as well as high-profile scandals in the past. At this stage, we cannot mention popular online casinos in Panama licensed by the PGCB. However, with more and more positive reviews emerging and improvements to the PGCB, it is inevitable that the uptake in PGCB licensed online gaming companies will increase.
Applying for a License with the Panama Gaming Control Board
Being licensed by the PGCB allows for regulated international wagering at an online casino or betting site. It also ensures that a gaming company follows compliance set out by the jurisdiction, runs legally without fraud, and allows for the protection of players in Panama. Unlike many other licensing boards, the PGCB has made the process of applying for a license hassle-free and simplified. Knowing the process of getting a PGCB gambling license is important for both gamblers and applicants to ensure a positive and safe gambling experience. Here are the steps to applying for a PGCB license:
- Fill out the comprehensive application in as detail as possible
- Allow for background checks on all key individuals, employees and applicants involved with the operation
- Allow for an inspection of financial documents and approval of a business plan showing how the operation will be run
- Allow for testing of the website functions (for an online casino) or services (for a land-based casino), ensuring that all necessary processes that bettors will go through to wager are working perfectly and that any game included on the website or in the casino is fair and safe
- Pay the initial licensing funds of $40 000, as well as the license processing deposit of under $10 000
- Once you have been approved, have paid all the costs, and are registered as being licensed with the PGCB, there are additional steps to extend and renew the licensing contract:
- Pay the annual renewal fee of $20 000 after seven years
- Continue transparency of the site’s operations even after the license has been procured
The Pros and Cons of Applying for a License with the Panama Gaming Control Board
By being in the know about the advantages and disadvantages of applying for a license with the PGCB, you can weigh the options of various licensing opportunities in Panama to find one that suits you best.
- Low price point offering
- Simple application process
- Unsaturated license market
- Two decades of issuing online gambling licenses
- Zero gambling winnings tax
- The unfamiliarity factor could hurt operators when it comes to doing business.
- High-profile scandals in the past
- The gambling license process can take up to two months.
Domestic Laws and Restrictions Set by the Panama Gaming Control Board
The PGCB does have a few domestic laws and restrictions set out to ensure that gambling sites are fair, transparent and safe environments for players, abide by the laws and do not impose any risk to the state or public:
- A casino must be accredited and approved by the Tourist Board of Panama.
- They must be located in a hotel rated three stars or above.
- They must be at least 100 meters or one block away from places of worship, hospitals, clinics, and schools.
- All software is required to meet the required standards of the jurisdiction of Panama.
- Anti-money laundering controls are implemented, there is a signed tax agreement with the United States.
- All transactions regarding real money wagering must be made available to the Panamanian Government upon request.
History of the Panama Gaming Control Board
Gambling activities have been legalised and regulated in the Republic of Panama since 1886. However, up until 1997, only state-owned gambling companies were allowed to officially operate. Due to corruption, organised crime involvement and management issues, casinos were privatised - allowing private operators in the market in 1997. This resulted in Panama experiencing a gambling boom, but with that came a lot of fraudulent and law-abiding issues as well. This meant that the need for casinos to be regulated came about, resulting in Law 2 of 1998. Although the PGCB has been around since 1947, it was not until 2002 that Panama became a licensing jurisdiction. The gambling boom was the reason for the Gaming Commission being tasked with controlling and regulating casinos, issuing gambling licenses, and keeping an eye on money laundering. This was further strengthened by Resolutions No.29 and No.39 in 2003.
Due to the Online Gaming Act of 2002, online gambling in Panama has been legal since 2002. Because online gambling businesses licensed in Panama don’t have to pay any tax fees, the country has become quite the licensing hub - the home of hundreds of online casinos. However, due to a bad reputation, and the reluctance of payment processors and financial institutions to work with Panama’s online gambling sites, the number of licensed online betting platforms has decreased significantly over time.
About the author
Ethan Williams, a lively 24-year-old lad from the UK, brilliantly fuses his passion for online casinos with top-notch English localisation, creating bespoke casino guides for Britain's keen gaming lot.