Dutch Gambling Braces For Hostile State Secretary

June 17, 2024
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The new Dutch minister for gambling is expected to come from a party that has publicly called for the open online gambling market to be closed.
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The new Dutch minister for gambling is expected to come from a party that has publicly called for the open online gambling market to be closed.

The Netherlands is poised to appoint a new Cabinet following elections in November 2023, after party leaders confirmed last week that an agreement had been reached after months of debate.

After a reshuffle of responsibilities, gambling will now fall under the purview of a junior minister in the Ministry of Justice, known as the State Secretary for Legal Protection.

That role is set to be filled by Teun Struycken from New Social Contract (NSC), a centre-right Christian party that has actively campaigned for rolling back the Dutch online gambling industry to its pre-2021 state, when only state-backed companies could legally offer gambling on the internet.

The news will cause dismay among the gambling industry, which has been battling overwhelming negative political sentiment in parliament for the past 18 months.

A wave of motions calling for tougher regulations, including a total advertising prohibition and a ban on online slots, have been put on the desk of outgoing minister, Franc Weerwind, over the past few months.

Although some in the industry have complained that Weerwind has not done enough to protect the sector, he did not bow to some of the more radical demands that crossed his desk.

But the NSC supported both of these motions, among others, stoking fears of how Struycken could choose to legislate.

“One should realise that the government that is now being formed has at least one party in it that wants to withdraw the whole legislation of the online gaming market. So what will happen will very much depend on how the new parliament will act and discuss,” said lobbyist and former member of parliament Bert Bakker.

Bakker, speaking at the Gaming in Holland conference in early June, warned that the gambling debate in Dutch politics has been overcome by “emotion” and that rational arguments are falling on deaf ears.

“The problem is that many people, many politicians, are very much against online gambling for ideological or religious reasons.

“Normally you would hear other politicians having a more rational approach, but you don't have those anymore.”

The industry is banking on two rays of hope. The first is that gambling will be moved from the Ministry of Justice to another department with a less hostile official in charge. The full details of ministerial responsibilities has yet to be published.

The second is that, in a change from the previous Cabinet, Struycken’s post is now a junior minister and will report to the minister of justice, who will have the power to veto his decisions.

That post is to be filled by David van Weel from the far-right VVD party, which has historically been less hostile to gambling than NSC.

Even before ministerial posts were filled, however, the incoming government dismayed the industry in May when it released a coalition agreement that included a tax hike from 30.5 to 37.8 percent of revenue.

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