Dutch Lobby Group Calls for Online Gambling Reform

Speel Verantwoord, a lobbying group for online gambling in the Netherlands, has once more called upon the government to enact changes to current legislation.

There has been an ongoing debate since 2010 about changing the online gambling laws in the country. However, nothing of substance has been achieved to date, despite a bill passing the lower house of parliament.

As a result of this lengthy process, there are numerous restrictive measures in place that are undermining the government’s goal, which is to direct players towards licensed platforms.

Since 2010, more than 1,000 parliamentary questions have been tabled about this issue and there have been numerous coalition agreements and subsequent amendments.

Regulations in their current form are distorted and the current offering of online gambling is unappealing. This is leading to players going towards illegal operators en masse.

Speel Verantwoord claims that existing regulations face practical problems when the implementing them and consumers are poorly protected. The lobby group is calling on the government to review all measures.

Dutch gambling history

Gambling has always been a popular activity in the Netherlands. Online gambling, in particular, has been a big draw in recent years, but it has not come without a myriad of issues.

There has been extensive debate regarding online betting regulations since 2010. The issue lay dormant for a couple of years before being reinvigorated during summer 2018.

In 2016 the Remote Gambling Bill was passed by a large parliamentary majority.

Part of the legislation recommended a 29% tax for land-based and online gambling revenues. There will also be a further 1.5% tax that will fund the country’s regulatory authority, the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA). Finally, another 0.5% will go towards helping problem gamblers.

A number of other measures in this bill were contentious. The KSA is no longer able to block the IP addresses of those using unauthorized gambling sites.

This is because there are more drawbacks than benefits associated with using this approach. There were also some measures regarding curtailing the gambling companies’ advertising practices.

Why the delay?

The Senate has been looking at this bill ever since the lower house of parliament passed it in 2016. In June 2018, the Minister for Legal Protection, Sander Dekker, wrote to the lower house in relation to the measures her ministry would be taking to ensure that licensed online operators in the country would be able to protect consumers significantly.

Many hope that this will help to kickstart the issue once more. Dekker pointed out that those who receive an online license should have a physical presence in the country if they do not have a presence in the European Union.

There has been significant opposition to expanding online gambling in the Netherlands. Opposition parties have expressed concerns about the negative impact a legal online offering would have on the population.

Hefty fines

While the bill continues to languish in the Senate, the KSA is actively rounding up illegal operators in the country. It has issued multiple six-figure fines against illegal online casinos that are targeting Dutch users.

In early November, it fined Honeydew Trading Ltd (Cyprus-based) and CyberRock Entertainment NV (Curacao-based) $395,000 each.

The two companies have the same owner and were operating seven different gambling sites that target Dutch residents. These are: Vegasdays.com, Vanguardscasino.com, Eurofortunegames.com, Casinofiz.com, Supremeplay.com and Play2wincasino.com.

The KSA claims these platforms were almost completely Dutch through their choices of language and their Dutch-friendly payment processor.

Potential fines can be as high as $960,000, which will put off a lot of operators from targeting Dutch players. One of the more prominent online casinos, 888 Casino, has stopped its operations in the Netherlands as a result of these strict regulations. It doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of such a significant fine.

In the latter half of 2018, the regulators have been ramping up their enforcement of regulations. The most positive expectations with regards to the passing in the Senate of the Remote Gaming bill place the earliest date at July 2020.

The regulator will undoubtedly continue going after errant online casinos while the country’s politicians deliberate over the online gambling bill.