Apple Inc has purged 55 gambling apps from the App Store at the request of Dutch authorities. The Dutch gambling regulator, Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), petitioned Apple in May, asking it to deny its citizens access to the apps of a number of companies that were flouting the country’s gambling laws.
Among those now unavailable are big European operators like Unibet and Bwin.
Holland has, for several years now, been preparing to overhaul and liberalize its 50-year-old gambling laws.
Its Remote Gambling Act will, for the first time, open up the Dutch market to foreign online gambling companies, and will also privatize the state-monopolized Holland Casino, which is the only company permitted to operate land-based casinos in the country.
The bill was drawn up in 2013, only to be debated endlessly in parliament ever since. But in July, it suddenly made some headway, and was passed by the Lower House. It is now being considered by the Upper House, where it is expected to pass, although possibly not before 2018.
In the meantime, the KSA has been active in targeting online gambling companies that specifically market themselves to Dutch citizens, such as those with Dutch language options and websites ending in .nl. In 2014, then-Secretary of State for Justice, Fred Teeven, warned that companies active in the Dutch market were “playing with fire.”
This is the first time, however, that Holland has targeted a global platform through which gambling can be accessed. The initial request in May was timed to coincide with the European Soccer Championships and had some success, according to the KSA.
“The blockade of sports betting apps in May meant that illegal operators were unable to benefit from the focus on sports betting during the European Football Championship,” said the regulator on its website.
“The Gaming Authority notes that in other European countries such as Denmark, the UK, Belgium and Sweden, sports betting apps were actually very popular during the European Championships. It is estimated that tens of thousands of downloads occur in the Netherlands over a four-month period.
“Online gambling is not regulated in the Netherlands,” it explained. “There is no coherent monitoring of the supply, and therefore no control over the fairness of a game of chance.”
Holland is a potentially huge market. It’s estimated that some 1.5 million Dutch adults gamble online, and, since the country currently has no licensed gambling websites, all of these players engage with the offshore markets.