Dutch Secretary of State for Justice Fred Teeven, Holland, the Netherlands, online gambling, illegal advertisers

Dutch Secretary of State for Justice Fred Teeven: “I cannot tell you now that companies will never be granted a license, but they are playing with fire.” (Image: ANP)

While the Dutch may well open up their online gambling market next year, the country’s Secretary of State for Justice, Fred Teeven, has made it very clear that operators currently targeting the Dutch market illegally are unwelcome. In fact, in response to questions in the Dutch Parliament about the amount of online sports betting advertising directed at Dutch citizens in the run up to the World Cup, Teeven warned that such sites were “playing with fire.”

While Holland may have a liberal and socially progressive attitude towards soft drugs like marijuana, and prostitution, the same cannot be traditionally said of online gambling. There are no legal Internet gaming sites in the country, and the government holds a complete monopoly on gambling. The nation’s only land-based casino chain, Holland Casino, which operates 13 venues around the country, is wholly owned by the state, with all profits going to the Treasury.

Breaking the Law

However, movements are afoot to change this. Last year, the Dutch Remote Gambling Act was drawn up and passed by an initial round of lawmakers in February. The bill is expected to be rubber-stamped later this year and should come into force midway through next year. Experts predict that a regulated online environment would bring in €200 million in gross gaming revenue in its first year.

Teeven has made it clear, however, that overseas operators are breaking Dutch law by targeting the Dutch market. With echoes of the recent “cease and desist” letters sent by New Jersey regulators to online gambling advertisers, the Dutch gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) recently wrote to certain operators who have been noisily marketing World Cup betting to Dutch citizens, warning them that they face sanctions should they continue to do so.

The question was posed in the House of Representatives by Mei Li Vos who asked: “If companies advertise, do they comply with the law or not? And does this mean that Unibet and other large parties will not get a license once the new law has been approved?”

Teeven said that the KSA mostly targets companies who use such media as radio, TV, and websites ending in .nl, and those that have Dutch language options, in its fight against illegal advertising, although he would not be drawn into mentioning any companies by name.

Bad Actors Frozen Out?

“So far, things have gone quite well and only a few companies were active in the Dutch market. However, this is changing,” said Teeven. “Companies which do so are playing with fire when it comes to licensing once the remote gaming law is implemented. Obviously, the KSA is in charge of licensing. We must however take into account the Bouwmeester Motion.”

The Bouwmeester Motion is the equivalent of the “bad actor clause” which has been adopted by newly regulated states in the US, such as New Jersey and Nevada, and is part of the proposed bill to legalize online poker in California. Established in 2011, it stipulates that illegal gambling operators that offer bets to Dutch citizens should be excluded from a future regulated market. As is the case in the United States, this list would include industry giants such as PokerStars (although the latter’s recent buyout by Amaya Gaming should be a game changer in that arena).

However, Teeven refused to say definitively whether such operators would be frozen out forever: “I cannot tell you now that companies will never be granted a license, but they are playing with fire,” he repeated. “It would be against all agreements we have reached in the past.”