Another step toward legal and regulated online gaming in the Netherlands was made on Thursday as the long-awaiting igaming bill was finally voted through the Dutch Lower House.
Its success in the House was practically assured following its debate last week which put it firmly on a clear path to becoming law. It now proceeds to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass thanks to broad cross-party support for online gaming liberalization.
Its smooth passage through the legislative process comes as a relief to online gaming stakeholders, which have been waiting patiently for a new regulatory system to be adopted for years. The bill has been postponed at least three times, and operators have maintained a somewhat awkward holding pattern over the Dutch online gaming market—operating but keeping a safe distance.
The Dutch Gaming Authority considers online gaming in the country illegal, and has forced its enforcement efforts on those who market in the country, operate dot-NL websites or Dutch language products. Operators have generally adhered to these rules to stay in good stead when the licensing process begins.
The new laws are expected to be adopted in early 2017, at which point the licensing process can commence. A go-live date in the second half of 2017, which just a month ago seemed optimistic, is now realistic.
Of course, regulations bring with extra burdens for operators. A hefty 29% tax on gross gaming revenue will apply to all licensed operators; a plan for a lower tax rate for remote operators was ultimately scrapped.
On Tuesday, Parliament also voted on some two dozen amendments pertaining to online gambling legislation. Some of these impose further restrictions: Apparently, operators will not be able to use existing player databases to promote their online offering, and multiple new amendments impose heavy restrictions on advertising.
According to Speel Verantwoord, a Dutch trade association of online operators, these burdens will affect smaller operators in particular. According to their estimates, at most fifty operators will now qualify for a license, significantly fewer than some 130 showing interest back in 2014.