Gambling in The Netherlands has been a fact of Dutch life since the 18th century. The Netherlands is also home to one of the oldest lotteries in the world. In addition, the Netherlands is home to a single company that owns casinos all over the country – Holland Casino.
Online gaming and sports-booking in The Netherlands have been largely unregulated—until now. The government of The Netherlands wants to crack down on the Wild West atmosphere online. It plans to levy fines against companies it feels are not following the rules it has begun to enforce.
The Kansspelautoriteit, which is the gambling agency of the Netherlands, has imposed a $400,000 fine on a company owned by Betsson, which is an online sports-book. The agency stated the reason for the fine was the company did not get a license to serve Dutch customers. The company, which is headquartered in Malta, argued it did not need a license in The Netherlands to allow Dutch citizens to gamble.
Betsson purchased Corona Ltd., an online casino, in 2014 for $130 million. Corona Ltd. owned the Oranje Casino and Kroon Casino brands that only serve Dutch customers. Betsson acquired the companies in anticipation that the Dutch market would undergo reregulation. It hoped the market would be more interested in Dutch companies that serve Dutch customers, even if the company’s headquarters were offshore.
The company also argued that because gaming regulations have not been updated, it should not be fined by the regulators. Some government officials believe the company might have a case because the regulators originally set out to fine several companies for violating the same policy. Several of those companies were also owned by Betsson. The company has not decided whether it will appeal to the gaming regulators.
Gambling experts believe Betsson should appeal the fine. If it doesn’t, they said, it may be left out of the online and sports-book market when The Netherlands amends its Betting and Gaming Act. It could result in the company not receiving licenses.
However, experts noted while the Netherlands has argued its need to update its regulations to properly manage gaming companies, it hasn’t moved forward to pass the new regulations. The new regulations that would allow the regulator to govern gaming companies were expected in 2015. However, the European Union has been pressuring the Dutch government to upgrade its gaming ordinances since 2005. Many of its fellow EU members had begun the process to update their regulations for online gaming during that time.
The House of Representatives tried to begin the process by passing the Remote Gambling Bill in mid-2016. However, the bill stalled because the Senate has been debating the merits and problems with the bill for more than two years. Lawmakers have stated they hope to finish the debate and have a vote between mid-2019 and early 2020.
Betsson has stated that it believes it has been targeted by the regulators because it has been very vocal in its criticism of the Kansspelautoriteit regulators. One of its claims is the regulators haven’t helped the government come up with a framework to curb unregulated online gaming companies. Another claim is that they have failed to inform legitimate betting companies of the rules under which they should operate. Betsson has complained that without proper regulations and guidance, no company will be able to operate without concerns its activities will be fined.
Betsson has appealed to EU regulators for help with the ongoing dispute with the Dutch regulators. But, so far, the European Union has chosen not to get involved.
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