On Monday, the Netherlands Gaming Authority celebrated its fifth anniversary. Although the regulator sees the remote gaming bill as a necessary tool to exercise effectual oversight of the Dutch (online) gambling market, legislative progress on the bill – much to the regulator’s dismay – may have stalled.
New enforcement criteria
From an industry perspective, the Gaming Authority’s anniversary was overshadowed by the unexpected tightening of the regulator’s online enforcement policy, which was announced on Saturday.
As became clear during yesterday’s event, the regulator is also planning to step up its efforts to block payment processing to and from unlicensed operators.
Asked for comment, Gaming Authority CEO Marja Appelman said that the new measures were only a logical “next step” to prevent unlicensed online operators from targeting Dutch customers. The new rules would also ensure that operators who are already taking aim at Dutch customers would not have an unfair advantage once the country’s online market officially opens, Appelman added.
Industry insiders, however, expressed fears that the new measures would only succeed in driving Dutch online punters into the arms of unreliable operators with no interest whatsoever in eventually acquiring an official gaming license, thus threatening the remote gaming bill’s policy goal of having at least eighty percent of Dutch online players sign up with licensed operators.
“Moving the political process forward”
Also present at the festivities was State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff of the Department of Security and Justice. In his speech, Dijkhoff alluded to a lack of trust in the Dutch Senate with regard to the Gaming Authority’s ability to strictly enforce existing regulations, making further legislative liberalization undesirable. “We are currently looking at ways to move the political process forward,” Dijkhoff said, while also mentioning the bill’s many “principled opponents.”
The Gaming Authority’s new online enforcement policy thus appears to have been designed to convince doubters in the Dutch Senate of the regulator’s willingness and ability to keep rogue online operators in line.
Furthermore, the Gaming Authority’s new enforcement policy may also signal its – as well as the Ministry’s – explicit commitment to 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.
Stalled in the Senate
With the current government under resignation in the wake of the Lower House elections that took place earlier this year, it now seems that Senators representing junior coalition partner PvdA in the Upper House have rediscovered certain objections against gambling liberalization, potentially robbing the remote gaming bill of its projected Senate majority.
Although it is certainly possible that a stricter enforcement policy, as well as an explicit commitment to the Motie Bouwmeester – an important issue to several political groups – will succeed in convincing a majority of Senators to vote in favor of the remote gaming bill, this is by no means guaranteed.
As the Netherlands Gaming Authority celebrates its fifth anniversary, the immediate future of the Dutch gaming market has become a lot less certain.