The regulation of Holland’s online gambling market is finally a reality as ten operators were granted online gaming licenses, valid from Friday October 1st 2021.
10 years in the making, the journey to online gambling regulation in the Netherlands has taken a long, winding and sometimes torturous road. The original version of the current Remote Gaming Act was proposed as far back as 2014 but it took several incarnations, the overcoming of a multitude of objections, and five long years until the Dutch Senate finally ok’d the bill. Since then, safe passage of the bill into law has been hampered by delays, with enactment being pushed back half a dozen times until the Remote Gaming Act was finally passed into law on April 1st this year. Perhaps surprisingly, given all the political back and forth, the regulated market has been able to open, as stipulated, six months to the day from the April 1st enactment.
The ten successful operators chosen from the 29 applications submitted earlier this year come from Italy, Belgium, the UK, Malta, Estonia, and of course, Holland.
Unsurprisingly, Holland Casino, the state run outfit who hold a monopoly of the country’s land-based casinos were among the first to be licensed along with state lottery Nederlandse Loterij, and FPO Nederland. UK applicants bet365 and bingo operator Tombola were also granted licenses, as were Italy’s Betent and Belgium’s Bingoal. The final three licenses granted headed to Malta, the current Mecca of the European online gaming world. The successful applicants being NSUS Malta (who run the hugely successful GGPoker.eu brand), sports betting business LiveScore Malta, and the Maltese/Estonian licensed Play North Ltd whose portfolio includes Rocket Casino and Pikakasino.
These ten licenses will be no means be the only ones granted by the Dutch gaming authority, Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), who are expected to issue further licenses during the first half of 2022.
Recognising the stringing requirements required to attain a license from KSA, many operators have yet to even submit their applications, while others have to see out a 33 month ‘cooling off’ period before they can be considered.
One of the key purposes of the cooling off period was as a way of levelling up the playing field for those new to the online gaming space (namely the Dutch, land-based casinos) versus those currently unregulated online casinos who accept Dutch players. During their cooling off period of 2 years and 8 months, no operator can be seen to specifically and actively targeted Dutch consumers. As such, big players such as Leo Vegas, Entain, and Betsson, ceased their promotional activities with regards to the acquisition of Dutch players over 2 years ago, meaning they will be eligible to be considered for KSA licenses in the near future.
The other purpose of the cooling off period was supposed to be so that the hundreds of thousands of Dutch players who have been using many of the unregulated but respected online casinos would be able to continue playing online until licenses were granted. However, this all changed on September 20th when Holland’s Minister for Legal Protection, Sander Dekker instructed the KSA that unlicensed operators must gradually cease offering their services to Dutch consumers from October 1st.
As a result, the initial ten licenses holders will enjoy something of an oligopoly on the market over the next few months. Conversely, unregulated operators will have to forgo millions in revenue over the next few months in pursuit of a KSA license. Entain, the global sports betting giant who own the likes of bwin, Ladbrokes, Coral, and Party Casino to name a few, have already ceased operating in the territory and announced on Friday that
“Entain will submit its Dutch licence application later this year and the group aims to be granted a licence during the first half of 2022, in line with the group’s objective of only operating in domestically regulated markets,”
Likewise, Kindred Group (Unibet, 32 Red, Maria Casino), Betsson, 888 and LeoVegas all ceased their Dutch offerings on the eve of regulation day. Naturally, owners of Dutch accounts from the aforementioned providers are to be given adequate time to withdraw any funds still on their accounts.
It would certainly seem that the Dutch lawmakers are willing to back-up their position with regards the non-acceptance of unregulated online casinos having just last week fined Maltese licenced online casino, Tipico, €531,250 for offering gambling in the Netherlands.
While the almost immediate withdrawal from the Dutch market of the country’s most popular online casinos is sure to be frustrating for players, you can be sure that in the long run, regulation can only be a good thing with regards player protection.
For example, all licensed operators will be obliged to systematically register and analyse data relating to the player’s gaming behaviour on a quarterly basis and submit reports to KSA. In time this data will be used as scientific research into how best to prevent gambling addiction.
Furthermore, all KSA licensed online gambling operators must centralise their player databases with the Dutch gambling’s national self-exclusion scheme, CRUKS. Through CRUKS, players may self-exclude from both online and land-based casinos by registering online. Not only that, but there is also and ‘involuntary’ option for concerned family members, friends, or employers to register an individual to CRUKS. While the voluntary self-exclusion is immediate, the involuntary procedure may take several weeks, with the individual referred being given the chance to contest exclusion.
To complement the work of CRUKS, KSA has established an Addiction Prevention Fund that will be underwritten by taxes generated from the online gambling sector.