Netherlands Approves First Ten Licenses for Soon-to-Launch Online Gambling Market

  • KSA chair Jansen has confirmed the first ten online gaming licensees can launch on October 1
  • Just over one-third of applicants have received approval, but others are still pending
  • The regulator has imposed strict measures on licensees, including in responsible gambling
  • Unlicensed operators must leave the market by November 1 or face hefty regulatory penalties
businessman's hand stamps document with seal of approval
The Dutch gaming regulator has finally approved the country’s first online gambling licenses ahead of the October 1 market launch date. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update September 29, 2021: The KSA has revealed the names of the online gambling companies that will receive licenses to operate in the Dutch market starting October 1. They are TOTO Online BV, FPO Netherlands BV, Holland Casino NV, NSUS Malta Limited, Play North Limited, Tombola International Malta Plc, Hillside (New Media Malta) Plc, Bingoal Netherlands BV, Betent BV, and LiveScore Malta Limited.

Regulator signs off on ten

Lawmakers in the Netherlands officially legalized online sports betting and iGaming by passing the Remote Gambling Act earlier this year. Now, the Dutch gaming regulator, otherwise known as De Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), has made history by approving the market’s first licenses.

as of 1 October they are allowed to provide gambling services on the internet”

KSA chair René Jansen confirmed the successful applications during a speech on Monday this week. “Tomorrow, ten license applicants will be informed that their applications were successful, meaning that as of 1 October they are allowed to provide gambling services on the internet,” he commented. Despite providing the news, Jansen said the KSA cannot yet release information on who those licensees are.

Notably, the KSA has received a total of 29 license applications to date, meaning just over one-third of them have had success. However, Jansen has made clear that the regulator intends to proceed with a phased opening of the market, with other applications still pending. The KSA expects more applicants before April 2022.

High requirements for licensees

Speaking with current affairs TV program Nieuwsuur on Monday, Jansen noted the stringent demands that the regulator is placing on its applicants. “High requirements are imposed on a license, including in the fields of addiction prevention and consumer protections, and the KSA tests rigorously,” he stated.

Some have blamed the low number of applicants on such strict demands for licensees. In the KSA’s March projections, the regulator predicted that a total of 35 operators would apply for licenses in the initial process. The actual total of 29 represents a 17% drop from this estimation. Even more significantly, this corresponds to a 77% drop from the number of expressions of interest submitted in October last year.

Despite this, the KSA is steadfast in its expectations from licensees. “The bar is set high and we assess all elements of the license applications very seriously,” Jansen affirmed on Monday. He said the KSA “encountered a substantial number of flaws” in license applications and urged others to “be very well prepared” if they hope to receive the green light.

Although Jansen has so far refused to name any successful applicants, media reports have suggested that Betsson, Entain, Kindred Group, and 888 Holdings are all hoping to secure a Dutch license.

Unlicensed operators must exit

While the legalization of sports betting and iGaming is good news for those hoping to enter the market, unlicensed operators face hefty penalties if they continue to cater to Dutch gamblers. On Monday, the KSA announced it will take action against any unlicensed firms that do not leave by November 1. They must stop accepting new customers on October 1.

could face KSA fines totaling as much as €600,000 ($702,705)

The move will affect a number of companies that currently offer their services to Dutch customers, namely PokerStars, Unibet, and Bwin. If they choose to remain, they could face KSA fines totaling up to €600,000 ($702,705). Meanwhile, if their annual turnover exceeds €15m ($17.6m), the KSA will fine them 4% of the stated amount.

Unlicensed operators will have to leave the market for at least six months before they can rejoin. They can then apply for a license through the KSA.