During the first day of the 2017 Gaming in Holland Conference & Expo, several speakers and panelists discussed the legislative progress of the Dutch remote gaming bill, the secondary legislation that is currently being drawn up at the Ministry of Security and Justice to accompany the bill once it comes into force, as well as the new online enforcement policy of the Netherlands Gaming Authority.
1. Remote gaming bill status update & timeline
Before addressing the issue of secondary legislation, Ministry of Security and Justice officials Dennis van Breemen and Frans Maas discussed the current legislative status of the remote gaming bill. (A full and unabridged video recording of their presentation is available here.)
Van Breemen, whose role is to oversee gaming policy modernization at the Ministry, admitted that passage of the bill in the Senate is far from a foregone conclusion. He spoke of the “complexity of the political process” and the “tough journey” that is still ahead.
Marketing and advertising, as well as the lack (so far) of definitive government agreement with the “Motie Bouwmeester,” a Lower House motion adopted in 2011 that would bar online operators serving Dutch customers in violation of current legislation from acquiring a remote license, appear to be the most significant remaining stumbling blocks.
With the current government under resignation following the Lower House election of March, the Dutch Labor Party (PvdA) has started wavering in its previous commitment to gambling reform – both with regard to the remote gaming bill and the casino reform bill.
The Christian Democrats (CDA), who would otherwise be necessary to provide the remote gaming and casino reform bills with a majority in the Senate, remain opposed to the current proposals.
Van Breemen said he expects the Senate to discuss the remote gaming bill – together with the casino reform bill – in October, which would mean that the Dutch online market could open in July 2018 at the very earliest. Van Breemen added, however, that he was “not optimistic” that this “tight schedule” could indeed be realized.
2. Secondary legislation
Even though legislative progress may have stalled, officials at the Ministry of Security and Justice are nonetheless busily preparing the secondary legislation that is to accompany the remote gaming bill once it comes into force.
A public consultation on this lower regulation is expected to be opened by the end of the summer, Van Breemen said. Visitors to the Gaming in Holland Conference, however, were treated to a preview of some of the regulations that are currently being drawn up. (The slides accompanying this preview presentation, offering additional detail, can be downloaded here.)
Operators will be allowed to offer the most common games: slots, casino table games, poker, betting (on events or the outcome of a sports game).
Spread betting or betting on lotteries, however, will not be allowed. In the case of slots or related games, there must be a minimum of three seconds between the end of a game and the start of the next one.
Customer ID verification
Operators will be obligated to verify the identity of their customers. In cases when this is not immediately possible, operators may provide players with a temporary account which will be valid for a maximum of thirty days. Temporary accounts will have deposit limits and players will not be able to withdraw their winnings.
With every log on, operators will have to verify whether players have not self-excluded.
Players are expected to draw up a player profile that includes playing and financial limits.
A player’s first payment (which may be a micro payment) will need to come from, or linked to, a personal checking account at a EU licensed credit institution.
All withdrawals have to be processed through a personal and verifiable account.
Players may only have one player account per operator. Transferring money between player accounts will not be allowed. Accounts with negative balances will not be allowed. Funds in an account always belong to the player and may only be used for games that are licensed in the Netherlands.
Operators will need to develop and actively maintain a responsible gaming policy. Operators are expected to monitor player behavior and intervene appropriately with automated warnings or through personal contact (phone, email), depending on player behavior in relation to the individual player profile.
Advertising and promotions
Televised ads may only be broadcasted between 7:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Advertising should not specifically target underage persons, young adults (
Bonuses are allowed, but may not be dependent on playing behavior. Bonuses will have to be the same for all players; and players may refuse the bonus.
Technical requirements and reporting
Each component of the operator’s gaming system will need to tested by appropriate independent bodies. Depending on the criticality of each component, testing will need to occur before production, or – in case of less critical components – up to 120 days later.
Operators are obligated to maintain a control database, containing unique player IDs, financial transactions, game transactions, exceedances of player profiles, and responsible gaming interventions.
The server of this control database must be located in the Netherlands and will have to be accessible to the Gaming Authority as well as tax authorities. The Gaming Authority, however, will not access the actual, live gaming system.
Operators will also have to make a financial deposit with the Gaming Authority of up to €810,000 against the possibility of being fined.
Protecting sports integrity is a shared responsibility of government, sports bodies, and operators.
Operators are responsible, among other things, for identifying irregular betting patterns and reporting these to the Sports Betting intelligence Unit of the Gaming Authority.
Operators may not offer bets on:
- Negative events (injuries, penalties)
- Events that are easily manipulated (first out, double faults)
- Youth matches
3. The Gaming Authority’s new enforcement policy
Only a few weeks ago, the Netherlands Gaming Authority suddenly introduced a considerably stricter enforcement policy for online operators. As we reported earlier, this sudden change appears to have been a response to severe political pressure; and more specifically an attempt to convince doubters in the Dutch Senate of the regulator’s willingness and ability to keep rogue online operators in line.
Netherlands Gaming Authority CEO Marja Appelman stated in her address (full text available here, full video here) that although many operators had obeyed the letter of the Gaming Authority’s previous, more limited enforcement priorities, they had “not followed their spirit” and were – in effect – still targeting Dutch players.
Doing so “shows a lack of trustworthiness and reliability,” Appelman warned, adding that many Dutch consumers remain ignorant of the fact that remote gambling remains illegal in the Netherlands.
A panel of industry representatives responding to Ms Appelman’s presentation expressed dismay with the Gaming Authority’s new enforcement policy, offering the observation that it would be impossible to channel a sufficient number of players toward licensed operators if the current market would be left to black market operators wholly uninterested in eventually acquiring a license.
More ominously, Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) observed that current Dutch gambling legislation is not compliant with EU law. “You cannot legally enforce a law that is not EU compliant,” Haijer said. “There are obvious grounds for a legal challenge,” the Netherlands’ foremost gaming lawyer Justin Franssen added.
As legislative progress appears to be (temporarily?) stalling, recourse for the gaming industry may thus eventually come from the courts.