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Netherlands: gambling regulation – political micromanaging. Guest Blog by Paul Leyland

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

The Dutch Senate has been asking some prima facie logical questions in the latest instalment of its tortured path to maybe getting domestic remote licensing. They wanted to know exactly how an illegal operator would be defined; how specifically will gambling advertising be restricted, and; what measures based upon administrative law can be used for blocking.

These questions need written responses, further adding to time pressure and a very fragile consensus.

There is an extent to which Justinian legal systems work like this: nail everything down in a codified way so that businesses, bureaucrats and grateful burghers now exactly what they can and can’t do. However, the Dutch tergiversations also point to a bigger issue: if everything needs to be agreed and codified in primary legislation it will take forever, it will largely reflect opinion over evidence and if it ever gets in place it is likely to be both rigid and obsolete.

Equally, the original bill was relatively liberal in scope and this is being systematically undermined in favour of a much more restrictive set of policies which will (deliberately or otherwise) favour domestic incumbents and potentially severely impede .com rivals.

The Netherlands has a regulator, and the most efficient and effective means of gambling regulation in our view is to empower the regulator and let them get on with it. However, this requires political trust that online gambling is broadly acceptable and can be effectively policed. Unfortunately for the remote sector (and at least partly because of it), for too many politicians in too many countries the evidence to the contrary seems to keep piling up.


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