Dutch Regulator Prepares Offshore Sanctions Blitz

February 6, 2023
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The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) is preparing to slap more than €25m ($27m) in fines on black market operators, as its chief executive warned licence holders to get up to speed on data sharing requirements or lose their licences.

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The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) is preparing to slap more than €25m ($27m) in fines on black market operators, as its chief executive warned licence holders to get up to speed on data sharing requirements or lose their licences.

KSA chair René Jansen said on Friday (February 3) that although the licensed online market has achieved significant successes in its first year and a half of operation, licensees failing in several areas need to shape up quickly or face the consequences.

In a combative speech during his annual appearance at the Kalff Katz & Franssen industry event in Amsterdam, Jansen warned he was “deeply concerned” about a number of the 24 licensed operators in the Netherlands who are not up to scratch in transmitting real-time player information to a “data vault”, otherwise known as a CDB.

“Promising to do better won’t cut it anymore,” he said, promising that companies that continue to be non-compliant with data vault rules face licence suspension or revocation as the regulator “inches ever closer to our last resort”.

Jansen also revealed that the KSA is preparing a package of enforcement measures against seven operators who he said are offering gambling illegally in the Netherlands.

More than €25m in fines against seven operators are being pursued, with the regulator waiting for a judge’s approval before announcing the sanctions.

The KSA has a long history of attempting to fine offshore firms, albeit with a patchy record of collecting on penalties, particularly from companies operating out of the Caribbean.

Asked by VIXIO GamblingCompliance if the KSA believed it could collect on the latest, and by far the largest, round of fines, Jansen said the regulator would face difficulties.

But he hinted that some operators in the firing line are located in jurisdictions less remote from the Netherlands than Curaçao or Antigua.

The fines for the seven operators are additional to the €900,000 fine handed out to Malta-based Shark77 in January for offering unlicensed Dutch gambling.

Jansen had further warnings for operators licensed in the Netherlands, some of whom he said are falling short in their legally mandated duty of care to customers.

The KSA “won’t hesitate to impose sanctions” on those it finds lacking, and is considering tightening rules around how operators should treat players if standards are not improved, he said.

Advertising will also be high on the regulator's agenda in 2023, with a pending ban on untargeted advertising due to be implemented in the coming months.

The KSA has already punished operators for failing to market responsibly to those aged 18 to 24. Most recently, JOI Gaming was fined €400,000 for failing to exclude young adults from its promotional emails.

The window for marketing compliance is expected to narrow even further when new government regulations are introduced.

Fedor Meerts, the Netherlands’ top gambling civil servant, explained later at the same event that it is a fundamental principle of the incoming ban to make it next to impossible for online gambling operators to accidentally advertise to those aged 18-24.

Operators will be prohibited from marketing on billboards, in print, in TV advertisements and elsewhere, he said, based largely on the reasoning that it is impossible for companies to shield young adults from gambling content in these formats.

Meerts applauded attempts at self-regulation by the industry, but noted that after an initial drop in advertising spend after operators implemented the code last summer, spending has risen again to match levels at market launch, during and after the FIFA World Cup last year.

“It shows the need for rules applied to all,” he said. “If certain operators continue to squeeze the lemon it will certainly be noticed by the regulator, politicians and the public at large.”

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