The target of the Netherlands' largest ever gambling fine has said it rejects the accusations and is launching a legal challenge.
Malta-based N1 Interactive is being fined €12,640,000 for allegedly targeting the Dutch market and allowing Dutch residents to play without holding a licence in the Netherlands.
The fine is part of a package of penalties totalling more than €25m being levied against offshore operators that the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) says are responsible for significant black market activity.
In a statement sent to VIXIO GamblingCompliance, N1 said it “categorically disagrees” with the KSA’s determination that it has violated the Dutch Gambling Act and has already begun the process to appeal the fine.
As noted by the KSA, the fines were initially issued in late 2022, but several of the targeted operators launched legal challenges in an attempt to prevent them from being named while appeals are underway. A court rejected these arguments, allowing the enforcement decisions to be published in full last week.
“As the decision is not yet final, N1 has requested the KSA to delay publication of the fine,” the operator confirmed in its statement.
“Unfortunately the KSA has denied this request and decided to publish its decision and this despite the fact that the fine is not yet final, and is still subject to objection proceedings that are due to be heard and decided by an independent and impartial judicial authority.
“At this stage N1 strongly believes that the KSA’s actions have exerted pressure on N1’s current standing in both the administrative as well as judicial proceedings,” it said.
The KSA alleges that an official from the regulator was able to sign up to N1’s bobcasino.com online casino from a Dutch IP address, make a deposit and gamble. The account was closed by the operator a week and a half after it was created, according to the KSA.
But N1 said it “has taken several measures to prevent participation in games of players from the Netherlands” and that it does not target the market.
In its enforcement decision, the KSA cites details such as the operator’s sign-up webpage auto-filling with the Dutch +33 phone prefix, that a regulatory official was able to successfully make a deposit from a Dutch bank account and the fact that the Netherlands was not included in a terms and conditions list of countries that were explicitly prohibited by bobcasino.com all as evidence that N1 was in breach of the Dutch Gambling Act.
“N1 strongly believes that the court can consider and evaluate the company’s arguments in a fair and transparent manner to reach a decision that is based on the legal standing of the matter,” the operator said.
“N1 will bring forward evidence to appeal the fine and dispute its legitimacy and proportionality which is excessive, taking into consideration other sanctions imposed by the KSA on other operators in the past.”
The operator also objects to the basis on which the KSA calculated its fine, the largest to date issued by the Dutch regulator.
“N1 feels that the KSA has adopted an incorrect and baseless calculation to determine the amount of the fine, making it disproportionately high, which contradicts the legal basis for levying and calculating a fine under Dutch law,” it said.
The KSA relied on data from Israeli data tracking company Similarweb, which it said shows that bobcasino.com received more than a million visits from Dutch-based internet users in 2021.
The regulator calculated the fine amount based partly on an estimation that each visitor to the website would have wagered an average of €230.24 per visit.
In its enforcement report, the KSA cites an objection from N1 that the regulator is unable to prove that any of the visitors tracked by Similarweb actually took part in gambling at Bobcasino.
“The Gaming Authority considers it inconceivable that the more than 1 million visits to more than just the homepage of the website have taken place without participation in the offered games of chance,” the KSA countered.
Fellow Maltese operator Videoslots, which was subject to a €9.9m fine in the same round of enforcement, also issued a strongly-worded objection to the KSA's actions and indicated it will fight what it sees as “unlawful” activity by the regulator.
Last week’s fine marks the second time in two years that N1 has been targeted by the KSA. In July 2021, the company was fined €500,000 for allegedly targeting the Netherlands via its Betchan brand.
At the time, N1 indicated it was willing to go to the Dutch Supreme Court to combat the fine and a spokesperson for the company told VIXIO its legal challenge is still underway.
“N1 is still in the appeal procedures [for the 2021 fine] and will not stop until all judicial measures are exhausted,” said the representative.