An appeal against a €1.6m fine from the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) for the operator of Orient Xpress Casino has been rejected by the regulator.
In February, the KSA penalised two sister companies, Equinox Dynamic and Domiseda and Partners, €900,000 each for co-operating Orient Xpress and offering gambling in the Netherlands without a licence.
Curaçao-based Equinox and Slovakia-based Domiseda objected to the penalty, but all of the pair’s arguments were thrown out by the regulator. A challenge can now be made in court.
Equinox did not dispute that it had accepted Dutch gamblers, but claimed it had only done so as a “system error” and that there had been no violation by Domiseda, which was simply a service provider for the online casino.
“Domiseda is a subsidiary of Equinox and is used to handle payments, has no control/control over the website and does not own/operate the website,” the operator said, according to KSA documents.
The authority, however, pointed to terms and conditions posted on the Orient Xpress website which stated that the online casino “is owned and operated by Equinox … and its wholly owned subsidiary, Domiseda and Partners”.
The KSA also noted that the terms of the online casino also required players to submit to the jurisdiction of Slovakia, where Domiseda is based, in all disputes with the company.
The operators also complained that they were punished even though they ceased allowing Dutch players to access their site once they were notified that a fine was imminent. The regulator countered that this did nothing to soften the initial violation and, therefore, the large fine was justified.
Equinox and Domiseda also pointed to the similar Gammix case, which saw the KSA take similar enforcement action against Malta-based Gammix, but instead initially opt for a sequence of escalation penalties, rather than a one-off fine.
The KSA countered that, in spite of the escalating nature of the Gammix fees, the regulator had subsequently decided to collect on the full €4.41m fine and so there was essentially no difference between the two cases.
The Orient Xpress operators also argued that the fine was too high, in particular they disputed a punishment for not offering proper age-gating, because “players must confirm that they are 18 years or older and the age is checked when withdrawing money”, according to the KSA.
The regulator said that simply having to tick a box to say you are 18 years or older on sign-up and only then prove your age once a withdrawal is requested, is not adequate protection against underage gambling.
The Dutch regulator has been engaging in a wave of enforcement activity against alleged offshore operators, including a landmark €12m fine for Malta-based N1 Interactive and a €9.87m fine for Videoslots.
Both fines are being contested by the operators.