On Wednesday, March 15, the Netherlands will elect a new House of Representatives. How will the outcome of this election affect the regulation of online gaming in the country?
The legislative process so far
After a lengthy process, the Dutch House of Representatives finally adopted a remote gaming bill proposed in July 2016. That bill is now under consideration by the Senate. The Senate, however, has decided to postpone its vote on the bill until the Dutch government has responded to second round of written questions that will yet have to be submitted.
The current deadline for submitting these additional questions is April 18, which means that these questions will either be answered by a cabinet under resignation or – after an inevitable and considerable delay – by the new government. As of yet, it is entirely unclear whether the outgoing cabinet will still settle this issue or leave it to the next government.
What are the polls saying?
As the House of Representatives elects the next Dutch government, the outcome of Wednesday’s elections is undoubtedly important for the future of (online) gaming in the Netherlands – even though the House of Representatives has already adopted the remote gaming bill back in 2016.
According to the latest polls, parties that supported the remote gaming bill will end up with close to two-thirds of the available seats. Proponents of gambling reform will also outnumber opponents in any likely government coalition.
A fly in the ointment?
While there are obvious reasons to be optimistic, there are potential pitfalls as well. As the largest political group is expected to secure less than 20 percent of the vote, any majority government will need the support of at least four parties.
According to the latest polls, moreover, there seems to be no viable coalition government possible without the support of the Christian Democrats (CDA), who are fierce and outspoken opponents of regulated online gambling.
Additionally, much will depend on which party will be assigned to run the Department of Security and Justice in the new coalition government. A Christian Democratic (junior) minister of Security and Justice – the department that oversees gambling regulation – could severely hamper further progress in liberalizing the Dutch (online) gaming market.
In light of this uncertainty, spokespersons for the Dutch gaming industry are calling upon the Senate, which will keep its current composition, to continue discussing the current legislative proposal with all due speed and without awaiting the formation of a new government.
Rutger-Jan Hebben, Director of Speel Verantwoord, the Dutch trade association of online operators, commented:
“The formation of a new government will be a tough process. Regardless of the election results, we will need at least four parties to form a majority government. Since consumer protection is still the cornerstone of Dutch gambling policy, it would be very time-consuming – and thus counterproductive – for a new government to amend the remote gaming bill.
Looking at the current timetable, the earliest market opening will be late 2018, but more likely early 2019. I find it already difficult to explain how this, let alone a further delay, serves the interest of the consumer.”
Sanne Muijser, General Secretary of VAN, representing land-based operators, stated:
“We feel it is important that the remote gaming bill will be approved by the Senate as soon as possible. Time and the world do not stand still. For that reason alone, it is in the consumer’s best interest that online gaming will be regulated at the very first opportunity. Thus, we hope that the Senate will not let itself be influenced by any ongoing government coalition negotiations and will hold a vote on the remote gaming bill before the summer.”
What is next?
On March 30, Gaming in Holland will organize a meeting in Amsterdam, starting at 15:30, to discuss the election results, as well as their likely consequences for the future of gaming in the Netherlands.
Further details will be made known shortly. For more information, please contact Willem van Oort: firstname.lastname@example.org.
An even more extensive discussion on the future of Dutch gaming, both land-based and online, will take place on june 13-14 at the sixth annual Gaming in Holland Conference. Save the date!