PokerStars and Other Unlicensed Online Gambling Firms Must Exit Dutch Market by November 1 Deadline

  • Unlicensed operators must stop accepting new users starting October 1 and leave by November 1
  • Netherlands Minister Sander Dekker has given the KSA the power to dish out large operator fines
  • PokerStars and others must go through a cooling-off period before they rejoin the Dutch market
  • The KSA is clamping down on illegal operators, with a Tipico subsidiary fined €531,250 ($622,494)
PokerStars logo on keyboard
PokerStars and other unlicensed online gambling operators in the Dutch market will have to leave by November 1 or face hefty fines from the gaming regulator. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Laying down the law

When Netherlands lawmakers passed the Remote Gambling Act in April 2021, it meant an end to the country’s unlicensed online gambling market. With internet gambling now legal across the country, gaming regulator De Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has given its final deadline for all unlicensed operators to leave.

must stop accepting new customers by October 1

Netherlands Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker has ordered the KSA to take action against any unlicensed operators that do not exit the market by November 1. Prior to this, they must stop accepting new customers by October 1. The minister has given the regulator the power to impose hefty fines if firms do not meet this target.

Among others, these deadlines pertain to PokerStars, Unibet, and Bwin, who all currently operate in the market without licenses. If they remain, they will face basic fines of between €150,000 ($175,676) and €600,000 ($702,705) starting November 1. If a company’s annual turnover exceeds €15m ($17.6m), the KSA will fine them 4% of this amount instead.

Some time to cool off

Beatthefish reports that, as stipulated in the Dutch Remote Gambling Act, unlicensed operators in the Netherlands will now face a cooling-off period in which they must leave the market for at least six months. They may then apply for an official gambling license through the KSA if they wish to rejoin the market. It could take some time for them to receive this permit, however.

While Flutter Entertainment-owned PokerStars will have to leave the Dutch market for the foreseeable future, other popular poker operators such as GGPoker and Party Poker have the option of applying for Dutch licenses straight away. Both left the Netherlands multiple years ago, and media reports suggest they will be among the first legal poker sites to go live in the country.

Outside of just poker, reports suggest that Betsson, Entain, Kindred Group, and 888 Holdings have all applied to enter the Dutch iGaming market. The KSA received 28 provisional license applications in April. It is yet to announce the successful applicants, with approvals set to begin on October 1.

The 28 license applications represent a slight dip from the 35 permits the KSA expected to grant during the process. It also corresponds to a 75% decline from the 125 expressions of interest submitted to the authority in October 2020. Some have blamed strict regulatory standards for the drop in interest among iGaming operators.

KSA begins crackdown

In advance of the launch of its new iGaming market, the Dutch gaming regulator has already dished out some large fines. At the beginning of this month, the KSA hit two illegal gambling operators with collective fines up to a maximum of €65,000 ($77,177). It took to Twitter on September 2 to share news of the cease and desist orders for Luxury Bingo and BSB Shop:

More recently, the KSA fined a Malta-based subsidiary of gambling giant Tipico €531,250 ($622,494) for illegally targeting Dutch people through its online offering. The penalty consisted of a base €200,000 fine, plus three further fines of €75,000. The watchdog then increased the total fine by 25% for age verification failures.

While PokerStars has not yet received a similar fine for operating in the Dutch market, the company’s previous US difficulties provide an example of what could happen if it disregards the government’s orders. In 2011, the US Department of Justice issued indictments against illegal poker operators such as PokerStars. The company only just ended a long-running Kentucky legal dispute regarding its US operations last week, paying $200,000 as a settlement.