With Dutch e-gaming laws still in the dark ages, the number of people taking to illegal online gambling continues to rise. In fact, a new survey commissioned by state-owned Holland Casino, who hold the legal monopoly on Netherlands gambling, shows that this type of illicit gaming has increased by 20% in the last two years alone. And all the while, the country’s regulators continue to enforce outdated legislation.
The Netherlands Gaming Authority
The Netherlands Gaming Authority (Kansspelautoriteit or KSA) was established in 2012 and tasked with regulating the proposed new Dutch Remote Gaming Act. However, it was never part of its original brief that, over six years later, the same authority should still be treading water and doing little more than issuing fines to errant online gambling operators. This impasse can best be understood by looking at the passage of the legislation. The updated Remote Gaming Bill authorising online gaming was sanctioned by the Dutch House of Representatives in mid-2016, but since then it has failed to make any progress whatsoever through the Dutch Senate.
Survey of online gambling trends
With the Senate scheduled to debate the Remote Gaming Act on 05 February, 2019, a new survey published in the preceding week revealed that the number of gamblers using unlicensed online gambling sites in the Netherlands had now reached 1.8 million – an increase of 300,000 on the figures returned for 2016. So it is comforting for our gambling customers to know that we provide an entirely legitimate form of online casino games they can enjoy.
Managed by research and strategy consultancy Motivaction, this survey consulted 18,000 participants about their online betting habits and use of unlicensed sites. Interestingly, two thirds of those classed as ‘frequent’ players – which means they used this gambling format upwards of seven times each year – reported that they would prefer to play via a properly licensed operator. And whilst the number of online gamblers was definitely on the increase, Motivaction calculates that this market still has an annual value of around €600 million. The researchers also note that this effectively means that, until new legislation comes into force, with every year that passes the Dutch Treasury are losing what could be as much as €175 million in tax revenues.
Holland Casino supports reform
Erwin van Lambaart, director of Holland Casino, made it crystal clear that, even though the state-owned company enjoyed a legal monopoly on gambling in the Netherlands, they were very much in favour of these overdue revisions to the law. Van Lambaart said he hoped lawmakers would now go ahead and extend the legal provisions to allow more licensed operators to become part of a thriving online gambling market.
Citing the survey findings, van Lambaart commented that increasing numbers of Dutch people were engaging in totally unprotected kinds of online gambling, adding that they use international providers located on sunny holiday islands who are only regulated by the loosest of frameworks. Furthermore, he said, such companies paid no gambling tax and so were also unfairly competing in the market.
Fines mount for regulatory breaches?
In 2018, the Dutch regulator KSA fined companies found to be in breach of online gaming rules a record total of €1.7 million. In detail, this consisted of 23 sanctions across the year, of which four were charges of administrative coercion, seven were adjudged to be administrative penalties, and the remaining 12 were standard penalty notices. Under the current law, which is very restrictive, a very well-known casino received a fine of €300,000 for tracking Dutch players as they opened accounts with their service providers. The regulators also confirmed that the list of companies deemed to have fallen foul of the law by their illegal targeting of Dutch players online included: Betclic Everest Group’s Bet-At-Home, Betsson subsidiary Corona, Mr Green operator MRG, CyberRock Entertainment and its Honeydew subsidiary, and William Hill.
Will the Dutch Senate deliver?
Though the Senate debate was launched on 05 February as planned, many believe there will only be a slim majority of members in favour of the proposals. And true to form, senators have tabled three questions which will require a written response from Justice Minister Sander Dekker. They wish to know precisely how the bill will define an ‘illegal operator’, how the government plans to restrict advertisements on gambling channels, and what legal devices authorities will be able to use to block future unlicensed sites.
Dekker outlined his thinking to the chamber, suggesting that a ‘Denmark-style’ system would channel the most Dutch online betting towards regulated providers. He also said he was minded to delay granting licenses to those who had received regulatory sanctions, but (on advertisements) noted that ads were the only practical way operators could confirm their licensed status to prospective gambling customers.
Dekker’s written answers should be back before members by Friday, 08 February. So provided there are no further delays, it should still be possible for senators to cast their votes on Tuesday, 12 February, the date originally scheduled.