The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) has fined Malta-based online operator Shark77 €900,000 for allowing Dutch players to gamble on its website without a licence.
Announcing the fine on Thursday (January 19), the KSA said upholding the Netherlands' ban on unlicensed operators remains one of its priorities.
The regulator stated that licensed operators are subject to fees compared to their unlicensed counterparts that do not pay any tax in the Netherlands and are not required to comply with the country’s gambling laws.
René Jansen, chairman of the KSA, said: “These providers can thus have an attractive effect on players and jeopardise the channeling to the legal offer. We consider this serious and highly undesirable. Dutch players deserve the good protection of providers with a licence from the Gaming Authority.”
An investigation was launched by the KSA into Shark77's website www.18bet.com as early as 2021.
The regulator found that the website was accessible from a Dutch IP address, an account could be created using a Dutch address, a Dutch flag was visible during the process, the international phone code for the country was also optional and deposits could be made into these accounts.
Data also showed that the website was frequently visited in the Netherlands.
“No technical measures were taken to prevent participants from the Netherlands from accessing the games of chance,” according to the sanction decision.
Additionally, “the enrollment process did not visibly verify age before completing the enrollment process”.
Shark77, which the KSA said provided more than the required cooperation, argued that “games of chance are offered on the basis of a licence granted by the MGA [Malta Gaming Authority] and are in accordance with the associated laws and regulations”.
The operator also stated that it “did not want to focus specifically on the Dutch market” and “has not specifically focused on the Dutch market”.
Shark77 also disputed the KSA’s conclusion claiming it could not “reliably determine the number of website visits and the estimate of the turnover based” on the data in its report.
All of these points were addressed by the KSA in its sanction decision. It is unclear if Shark77 will appeal the fine.