1. The Dutch Senate is currently scheduled to debate both the remote gaming bill and casino reform bill on February 5. A final vote on the two bills is expected a week later on February 12. What can we expect?
As the remote gaming bill and casino reform bill have already been adopted by the Dutch Lower House – in July 2016 and January 2017, respectively – assent by the Senate would mean that both bills would become law. This, in turn, would mean a) the legalization and regulation of remote gaming in the Netherlands; and b) the privatization and partial break-up of state-owned Holland Casino, the sole operator allowed to offer land-based casino table games in the country.
Although the outcome of the Senate vote is not yet entirely certain, the fact that the Ministry of Justice and Security allowed the legislative process to move forward (by sending out its final answers to written questions tabled by the Senate), indicates that the government believes it now has the votes to pass both bills.
2. When will the Dutch remote market open? When will Holland Casino be privatized?
In the Netherlands, as a rule of thumb, new laws become operative roughly eighteen months after adoption by Parliament. More specifically, in the case of the remote gaming bill, there are quite a few things that still need to happen. For instance, both the Lower House and Senate will need to be consulted on the secondary legislation, while the Netherlands Gaming Authority also needs to conduct a public consultation on the licensing procedure.
Thus, the best-case scenario is that the licensing window for remote operators opens in the second half of 2020, with the actual market opening following in January 2021. Due to limited capacity at the Gaming Authority, the opening of the re-regulated land-based market will have to wait at least another six months after that.
3. How attractive will be the Dutch online market be?
Operators looking to enter the Dutch online market will be facing high tax rates (29% of GGR + 2% additional levies) and significant regulatory burdens. Operators will furthermore need to make considerable investments. The initial, one-off costs for an online license alone will amount to €800,000, while licensed operators will also be expected to offer Dutch-speaking customer support that is available 24/7. Only large, well-established, and well-funded parties are expected to be able to fulfill the proposed license conditions. Smaller and newer operators will definitely be at a disadvantage.
While, at first glance, the Dutch online market does not promise to be particularly appealing, prospective operators should also note that the Netherlands can boast of one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world, while the Netherlands also ranks fifth among the EU28 in GDP per capita – well ahead of Germany, France, and the UK. These statistics will make the Netherlands hard to overlook for operators looking to expand in regulated markets.