A Malta-based fantasy sports company, Zweeler, said it has stopped offering its product in the Netherlands after it was threatened with a fine of up to €850,000 by the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) for not having a sports-betting licence.
The company said it has stopped offering fantasy sports games to Dutch residents “for the time being” but “probably also in the rest of the world”.
“Everyone knows that fantasy sports are not sports betting, but the KSA clearly has a different opinion”, the company said in a September 30 note to its customers.
A KSA spokesperson confirmed that Zweeler was recently issued a notice of intention to impose a penalty.
“If they do quit offering services to Dutch players, they won’t get the order,” the spokesperson said in an email. “They could still be fined for offering illegal online gambling to Dutch players in the past.”
The move comes in the wake of long-running controversies over whether fantasy sports are sports betting and therefore in need of a gambling licence.
The New York State Gaming Commission just this week restricted “pick ‘em style” contests held by fantasy sports companies that resemble parlay- or accumulator-style betting.
Zweeler has software and pool-betting licences with the UK’s Gambling Commission and a “revenue-restricted licence” in Denmark, which restricts gross gaming revenue to 1m Danish krone (€134,000).
“Our controlled skill game licence in Malta has no value here, according to the KSA, because fantasy sports are suddenly sports betting,” the company said.
“You have no chance against these types of organisations, and we obviously cannot afford a fine (we earned 282,000 euros in 2022, so even a fine of 50,000 euros would have been too much),” Zweeler wrote.
The company said it was considering options including applying for a Dutch sports-betting licence or partnering with a company that already has a betting licence.
But the most likely option would be to stop offering daily fantasy games, probably by the end of this year, the company said.
Instead, it would focus on its media sites.
“We will still offer our games there, only for free, and of course without prizes,” Zweeler wrote.