Unlicensed Operators Must Block Dutch Players From October, Says Minister

September 21, 2021
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Operators that passively target the Dutch market without a licence after October 1 face enforcement action and possible licensing jeopardy, following new instructions from the country’s gambling minister.

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Operators that passively target the Dutch market without a licence after October 1 face enforcement action and possible licensing jeopardy, following new instructions from the country’s gambling minister.

In a letter to parliament on Monday, senior minister Sander Dekker said he had told the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) to perform a drastic “acceleration” of its enforcement action against any company taking players from the Netherlands without a licence, once its online gambling market opens ten days from now.

Under the terms of the country’s current “cooling-off” rules, online operators that are not directly marketing to Dutch consumers but still passively accepting wagers from the Netherlands do not jeapordise their ability to apply for a licence in future.

In the letter, Dekker says he accepts that his decision may hurt channelisation rates in the short term, but he said: “I expect that the desired intensification of enforcement after the opening of the market … serves to accelerate the use of legal supply and broad compliance with the [Gambling Act].”

A large proportion of the major international online gambling firms are expected to miss out on the October launch due to another of the “cooling-off” principles — namely that anyone found to have been targeting the market without a licence in the past needs to wait 33 months after their infraction before a licence application will be accepted.

Brands including William Hill, Betsson, Bet-at-Home and bwin have faced enforcement action from the KSA over the past two years.

That leaves a small group of companies, including the long-standing Dutch land-based and lottery players, that are expected to be awarded licences on October 1.

The cooling-off period ends when the market opens, meaning it had been unclear how strictly the regulator would interpret the text of the new Gambling Act, which on one reading would make it illegal to take any bets from the Netherlands without a licence.

The regulator also appears to have been unclear on how it should proceed. In his letter, Dekker indicates that he was responding to a request from the KSA for how to manage its enforcement strategy post-October.

The lawmaker’s decision to request a tough line creates a dilemma for the many firms currently profiting from the Netherlands, but that will be forced to sit out the market opening because of the cooling-off rules.

Any enforcement action from the KSA or even evidence of accepting Dutch players after October 1 could now jeapordise their pending licence applications.

The KSA did not respond in time for the publication of this story to a request to confirm that enforcement action from October onwards would rule out being awarded a licence.

Unlicensed operators may not need to immediately cut off their Dutch players on October 1, to allow customers to withdraw funds, the letter suggests.

Dekker says he recommends that the KSA “consider” crafting regulations to allow this to take place without putting operators at risk of enforcement action, but there is no explicit reference in the letter to a transitional period where offshore companies would still be permitted to take wagers from the Netherlands after October 1.

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