Dutch Incumbents Head Licence List As Trade Group Seeks Meeting

September 30, 2021
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Holland Casino and Nederlandse Loterij lead the list of ten Dutch online gambling licensees announced, with major brands such as Unibet, Betsson, PokerStars and bwin left out in the cold.

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UPDATE 10:07 - Story updated to reflect announcement from Entain.

Holland Casino and Nederlandse Loterij lead the list of ten Dutch online gambling licensees announced, with major brands such as Unibet, Betsson, PokerStars and bwin left out in the cold.

Other winners include: Belgium-based Bingoal; Betent NV; and NSUS Group, which operates GGPoker in a number of markets, according to a list published on Wednesday by the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA).

The UK is represented by sports-betting giant bet365 and Tombola, the bingo and low-stakes casino specialist. Both are members of Netherlands Online Gambling Association (NOGA).

From Friday October 1, the ten licensees can legally offer online casino and sports betting, while other companies face the chance of prosecution from November 1 when fines are scheduled to be increased.

NOGA managing director Peter-Paul de Goeij said he had been surprised earlier this week at the announcement that only ten of 29 applicants were initially successful, as many in the industry had believed that 15 to 20 might be announced.

But minister Sander Dekker’s statement last week advising a KSA “intensification” of prosecution against any unlicensed companies with Dutch customers was a “complete bombshell”, de Goeij said.

The letter to parliament crushed the strategy employed by many companies: acting passively, no advertising or marketing, while awaiting a chance to apply for a licence.

NOGA is seeking an urgent meeting with the minister to “see what can be salvaged”, de Goeij said.

The policy turnabout seems to contradict the Dutch legalisation agenda’s key focus of consumer protection, the trade group executive said.

“It is such a big gamble” to assume players currently with established European operators will transfer to newly licensed operators and not be tempted by big bonuses and easy registrations offered by unscrupulous operators, he said.

New licensees include Fair Play Online, a unit of Janshen-Hahnraths Group which operates Fair Play land-based arcades; Rocket Casino, part of Play North Ltd of Malta and Estonia; and LiveScore Malta.

Prominent Dutch names not on the list include: Nationale Postcode Loterij, the Netherlands’ biggest charity lottery; ZETurf.nl, the racing betting site; and Jack’s Casino, part of JVH Gaming.

But their status is unknown, as the KSA did not reveal how many of the 29 applicants from an April eligibility period have been rejected, nor how many licences are still under review.

At least one major operator, Entain, said it will “cease its offering” in the Netherlands, as of Friday. The move will cost it about £5m in EBITDA per month.

Since July 2019, the company, parent of bwin and PartyPoker, said it has been complying with cooling-off criteria.

“Entain will submit its Dutch licence application later this year and the group aims to be granted a licence during the first half of 2022, in line with the group’s objective of only operating in domestically regulated markets,” the company said today.

Kindred Group has said only that it will apply for a licence later this year and Betsson said it is reviewing its plans.

De Goeij said he had no specific information on how NOGA group members will proceed from here.

“We remain committed to the Dutch market,” he said. “What individual members will do, I don’t know”.

Holland Casino chairman Erwin van Lambaart said its Playtech-run website will be ready for business on Friday.

“Holland Casino was established so that the Dutch can enjoy the thrill of games of chance in a responsible environment,” he said. “I see it as our responsibility to make that possible online.”

Janshen-Hahnraths Group said it was proud to be among the first group of licensees.

“Since 2001 we have shared the vision that the online market and consumers benefit from regulation through a licensing system and the associated safeguards,” said chief digital officer Björn Fuchs.

“The process of drafting the Remote Gambling Act was a long one, but today we, and soon the Dutch consumer, are reaping the benefits.”

The Dutch lottery’s TOTO site has already been legal for online sports betting, and the announcement means it can add casino.

Niels Onkenhout, CEO of Nederlandse Loterij, highlighted the company’s 295-year history.

“We stand for responsible gaming; participating is fun and should remain fun,” he said.

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