Linda Bruitsman: Gaming in Holland
iGaming regulations are a hot topic in Holland. At the present time, it is still technically illegal in Holland, but the government is working on a law that will regulate the Dutch iGaming market. For now, the Dutch Gambling Authority is monitoring whether or not online casinos are following the rules and if they do, they are tolerated. iGaming became popular in Holland about ten years ago. It all started with the rise of poker rooms and the success of online casinos followed. Now, iGaming is a thriving business in Holland.
Reformation of the Dutch iGaming market
The State Secretary for the Security and Justice Department in Holland, Fred Teeven, was aware of the size of the Dutch iGaming market and he wrote a political vision statement about the gambling industry in March of 2011. In 2012, the current government stated in their coalition agreement that they wanted to regulate the Dutch market for online gambling. It took Minister Teeven almost two years to convince the other parties to support his initiative to regulate the market. In the summer of 2014, the decision to reform the Dutch iGaming market passed with a narrow majority and the bill was presented to the parties of the Dutch government to be considered for the next vote.
The Dutch iGaming bill
The iGaming bill, as it stands, will dramatically transform the iGaming industry in Holland. The bill has many similarities to Denmark’s iGaming laws and its main focus is to reduce gambling addiction. In order to accomplish this, operators will be obligated to monitor gaming behavior and they must put a portion of their gross profits into a fund to prevent compulsive gambling. Perhaps the biggest change, however, will be taxation. The bill states that the casinos, not the players, will need to pay the new taxes of 20%. Games with a high risk of addiction will no longer be available at online casinos that hold a Dutch license. However, the bill doesn’t state which games that restriction refers to. The affiliate market is barely referenced in the bill. It almost seems as if the Dutch government doesn’t see or understand the existence of affiliates and their important role within the iGaming industry.
Lets peek into the future… What will it look like if this law passes and a new player logs on to a licensed online casino?
A new player will first need to create a profile at any licensed online casino. In this profile, the new player has to specify how long he will allow himself to play and specify a maximum allowable deposit amount within a specified period of time. The operator has to verify the identity of the player and must record all of the player’s financial transactions, which will be available to the Gambling Authority in real time. The Dutch privacy laws make this part a bit complicated and will require some adjustments. The restriction on deposits is intended to prevent fraud and money laundering. When a player wants to gamble longer than he has registered for or with more money, he needs to have a conversation with the online casino first. A voluntary or compulsory exclusion period of 6 months could result from any such increases. Players that have been temporarily excluded from participating will be registered in a central database and the casino operators must check every new player against that central registry. The data will also be used anonymously for addiction prevention purposes.
Compulsive gambling isn’t the responsibility of online casinos!
As said, the major focus of the bill is to reduce compulsive gambling. I’ve been a social worker in Holland for 12 years during which time I have seen the effects of gambling addiction including families losing their houses and children being taken away from their parents. Due to my previous experience within the social work community and now my experience in iGaming, I can safely say that the bill isn’t feasible when we look at it in terms of reducing addiction. The legislators want to make online casinos responsible for reducing gambling addiction. How can you expect that from an online casino? The average social worker in the field of addiction has studied for at least four years to be able to do so. Prevention isn’t an online casino’s duty. They can provide financial resources so that addiction treatments can focus on prevention and controlling compulsive gambling, however. Perhaps they can even develop a required educational course for players that are experiencing a temporary exclusion period. In Holland, this approach has already worked well for people that have committed serious traffic violations.
How to prepare for the regulation of the Dutch market?
Starting in December of 2014, online casinos can express their interest in obtaining a license from the Dutch Gambling Authority. To this end, operators wondered what preparation they could make to ensure that they can get a license in the future. To answer this question, it’s necessary to look at the current rules for iGaming in Holland:
- An online casino needs a license in an EU country.
- The use of the .nl extension is not allowed in the online casino’s website address.
- The online casino is not allowed to advertise on radio, television or in print media in Holland.
- The last rule, and perhaps the most important, is that online casinos are not allowed to use the Dutch language on their websites. Affiliates are the exception to this rule.
The Dutch Gambling Authority is in charge of monitoring whether online casinos are following these rules and violations will be penalized. The Gambling Authority is now allowed to fine an online casino up to €780.000. They can also block a casino’s commercials and advertisements. The Dutch Gambling Authority also just made a cooperative agreement with different payment service providers so they can block an online casino’s payments. If an online casino is interested in a Dutch license in the future, the best preparation is to follow the rules and make sure to not get fined by the Gambling Authority in the meantime.
The future of iGaming in Holland
What will the future of the Dutch iGaming market look like? To be honest, nobody knows.
Several parties within the government rejected the initial bill on a variety of different grounds. As a result, Teeven and his team went back to the drawing board to incorporate the changes that are necessary to get government approval. However, they need to speed up the process. The First Chamber currently has a narrow majority of the government. The expectation is that after the elections in May of this year, that majority will be gone. Plus, let’s not forget that the Second Chamber elections will take place in March of 2017. It’s unlikely that a new government will approve the initiative for regulating the market and the bill will be dead.
So perhaps the bigger question is, will there be a law to regulate the Dutch iGaming market at all? I think that a revised bill will pass the First and Second Chamber. My bet is in February of 2016. Will I win this bet? Only time will tell what the future holds… I will follow the developments surrounding the bill closely and will do my best to keep everyone informed. When the bill passes and the law is a reality, Casino Media is ready for it!
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