It’s been a little over three weeks since the Dutch Senate voted through its Remote Gaming Bill. Despite this, the fines continue to be doled out to renegade operators.
1xBet is the latest to be subjected to the Netherland’s draconian laws regarding online gambling, slapped with a €400k fine by the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) for targeting consumers without permission.
The penalty applies to the companies 1x Corp N.V and Exinvest Limited which operate the 1xBet.com and xbet-1.com websites respectively. According to a KSA report, both sites could be accessed from the Netherlands and included Dutch language functions as well as options to make deposits using payment method, iDeal – a service available only to individuals with Netherlands bank accounts.
The KSA also found that 1x Corp N.V and Exinvest were responsible for an additional 83 gambling websites aimed squarely at the Dutch market, each of which could be accessed using the same login details as those used for the 1xBet.com and xbet-1.com websites.
Speaking about the penalty, KSA chair René Jansen remarked:
“Online gambling in the Netherlands is illegal; under the current legal regime for companies it is not possible to get a licence for offering online games of chance…Consumers are not assured of a safe game on an honest market with illegal providers.”
1xBet isn’t the only casino operator to fall foul of the Netherlands’ outmoded gambling rules. In December 2018, William Hill was fined €300,000 for targeting players in the country without official sanction. MRG and Betsson subsidiary, Corona Ltd were also hit with substantial fines for similar transgressions, although it later appealed the ruling.
Despite the land-mark approval of the Remote Gaming Bill by the Dutch Senate on February 19th, official licenses won’t be issued until at least mid-2020. This means that operators still have to abide by the existing measures taken by the Dutch government to prevent its citizens from accessing remote gambling websites – an increasingly forlorn task considering that more than 450 online betting sites take bets from residents in Holland.
As it currently stands, the gambling sector in the Netherlands is under a state monopoly called Holland Casino which oversees 14 land-based casinos. This arrangement should come to an end when the new online gambling regulations come into force.
Under the new legislation, operators will be obliged to retain profile information as well as monitor gambling behaviour and stake amounts. A national database of self-excluded players will also be introduced covering both land-based adn online gambling activities. Once added to the database, players will not be permitted to gamble for a specified period.
Any company that is established in an EU or EEA member state may apply for a licence without the need to have a physical presence in the Netherlands. However, each licensed operator must have a local representative with expertise in gambling addiction and prevention. Moreover, every operator will be subject to a reliability test undertaken by the Dutch Gaming Authority (DGA) although the precise details of this test have yet to be submitted. According to recent parliamentary discussions, licence applications are expect to cost around €40,000.
The new regulations are not without controversy, particularly with regards to the ‘blackout period’, introduced by the Senate. This so-called measure calls for a cooling-off period of two years for operators who’ve actively and specifically targeted the Dutch Market, during which time no license can be granted. Quite how and when this will be applied to recently penalised operators such as Betsson and William Hill remains to be seen. The black-out rule has also caused some disquiet in political circles for its compatibility with existing EU laws.
It’s therefore clear that many important elements of the new legislation still need to be thrashed out. To this end, the Dutch Gaming Authority (DGA) will draft new licensing procedures and conditions – it will also conduct a public consultation about the proposed measures. Meanwhile, the DGA has reaffirmed its intention to continue enforcement actions against illegal operators until the new laws come into force. So in the meantime, certain online casino operators may want to start circling the wagons.