Dutch Illegal Gambling Sites Could Still Apply for Licenses

Landscape with tulips, traditional dutch windmills and houses near the canal in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

Companies who have illegally targeted the Dutch online gaming market could still be eligible for gambling licenses in the country when the government opens up its licensing rules to allow increased competition.

It has been reported that that the government will announce new plans to open up the country’s gambling market by offering licenses to international companies, even if they illegally targeted the country’s players in the past. It was claimed that the minister for legal protection, Sander Dekker, had suggested that operators who currently target Dutch gamers should apply for licenses as and when plans are approved, a move that has angered other members of the government.

Regulation as it stands

The Dutch Gaming Authority (DGA) has been focusing on implementing restrictions on unregulated, internationally-based online gaming companies. Foreign operators who targeted Dutch players could be fined up to €820,000 (£732,605; $960,040) as it stands, a figure that has put some operators off taking the risk.

One of the leading online casinos globally, 888 Casino, ceased operating in the country due to its stringent regulations for fear of being hit with a substantial fine. Opponents of the regulations have campaigned to make the government distinguish between illegal, unregulated, and unlicensed gaming companies in an effort to open the market.

Those claims had until now more or less fallen on deaf ears. However, new proposals would mean that even operators that had been sanctioned under previous regulations could still be granted licenses to operate in the country if plans go ahead.

Against Parliament’s wishes

According to the country’s Telegraaf newspaper, Dekker then issued a formal response on July 13 to the Dutch Senate’s second set of questions concerning the Remote Gaming Bill.

The Parliament’s lower house approved the bill in 2016 and it resurfaced recently. The country may be seeking to make the most of the potential tax revenue associated with offering gaming licenses in their territory.

However, members of the Dutch Tweed had previously placed sanctions on unlicensed operators who targeted Dutch gamers, so Dekker’s move will be seen as controversial among those who have a longstanding negative relationship with gaming companies.

Switching from internationally licensed providers

Dekker said that the primary aim of the proposed licensing reform is to allow the Dutch government to reap the rewards of licensing gaming companies as opposed to Dutch gamers using services based abroad and the government not receiving any financial benefit for it. He said that he believes users would switch from internationally licensed platforms to Dutch-licensed platforms if the reform were to go ahead, although critics are not so sure.

There are also concerns that users would maintain their current providers regardless of licensing changes, which would reduce the effectiveness of the proposed plan. Other concerns were raised about the country’s licensing system getting out of hand as Germany’s did, but Dekker counteracted those by stating that the number of licenses would be limited to avoid any such problems.

Meeting scheduled for September

Joop Pot, a member of the Netherlands Gaming Authority, spoke about the progress on iGB Live! in Amsterdam: “We call on providers of gambling and games to participate in this meeting in September. The best solution usually comes from a joint effort.”

These developments come two years after the potential Dutch licensing legislation was discussed, and gaming companies look keen to strike while the iron is hot and help in any way they can to move the proposal forward at a faster pace.

One thing is sure: Dekker is very much on their side and, with that support, there could be real potential for reform to come sooner than other members of the Dutch government would have expected or hoped for.

It is believed the new regulations will be in place by 2019, but it is unclear if that time frame will be met. Previous versions of the bill required operators to have offices in the country; however, a physical presence would not be necessary for companies headquartered in the EU/EEA, according to the proposed plan.