Several fines combined into one
The Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), the Netherlands gambling regulator, levied a €450,000 ($507,000) fine on Onisac Limited, the parent company of Casino.com. Onisac is headquartered in Gibraltar.
The huge fine is the combination of several separate fines. Two fines of €200,000 ($225,000) each were levied for offering games of chance online to residents of the Netherlands. While online gambling was recently legalized in the country, licenses have not yet been issued.
The final €50,000 ($56,000) of the total fine was for charging inactive players an administrative cost that is not reasonable. The fees were coming out of the funds of inactive players as “administration fees” after inactivity of just 180 days.
The KSA says that this is “an unreasonable disadvantage for consumers.” After this fine was issued, Casino.com was no longer available to people in the Netherlands.
This is not the first time that the company has been fined by the Netherlands. In 2013, it was under sanctions from the regulator for the same offense. Under the fining system in the country, the fine sum is doubled when it is the second instance of an offense.
KSA Chairman Rene Jansen explained: “This is a repeat offender. That makes the violation extra harmful and is the reason to double the fine.”
The KSA is committed to cracking down on illegal operators targeting people in the Netherlands. The regulator is increasing the size of the fines to discourage these illegal offshore operators.
Fines were increased on March 1. The smallest fine rose to €200,000 ($225,000) from €150,000 ($169,000), for example.
There is also an escalation system if the operator does not agree to cooperate or is seen to be intentionally targeting problem gamblers or underage gamblers. Operators that cooperate with the KSA can get some leniency.
According to the KSA chairman, the reason for these new measures was: “The fines we used were not terrifying enough.”
The increasing crackdown is quite obvious. In 2018, there were 23 individual sanctions against operators and fines totaled more than €1,734,700 ($1.95m), compared to fines worth €978,604 ($110,000) in 2017 and only €403,000 ($454,000) in 2016.
One of the more notable fines so far in 2019 was the online operator Casumo getting hit with a €310,000 ($350,000) fine. This was for a similar offense as Casino.com, offering online gambling services to Dutch residents without having a license to do so.
The United Kingdom’s authorities are also cracking down on errant online gambling operations by Casumo. In January 2018, for example, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) fined Casumo €6.78m ($7.63m) for failing to adequately protect problem gamblers.
The company was not adequately monitoring warning signs on player accounts. Similar fines totaling almost €16.23m ($18.28m) were levied on Videoslots and Paddy Power about the same time.
Legalization of online gambling
After many years of debate, online gambling was finally given the green light in February 2019 through the Remote Gambling Bill, which was originally proposed in 2016.
This will see a 31% tax rate on the online and retail gambling revenues. Some of this money will fund the operation of the KSA and another portion will fund programs for helping problem gamblers.
It looks as if the KSA will be getting more powers to regulate this space. This could include the ability to block the IP addresses of Netherlands residents from being able to access illegal offshore online platforms.
Before legal online gambling goes public, a regulatory framework has to be established. It seems likely that the application process for licenses will start in 2020. Therefore, it will probably be 2021 before the first legal online platforms will be open for business.