Newsletter - KSA applied tolerance policy for online gambling operators until 2013

Play North joins Dutch trade association VNLOK

Netherlands-licensed Play North, operator of the Batavia Casino brand, has joined trade association VNLOK as the association's sixth member.


Play North, which is based in Estland and Malta, was among the first ten operators to receive a Dutch license on September 29.


Helma Lodders, VNLOK Chair commented: “We are looking forward to working with Play North in establishing a responsible and safe Dutch online gambling market.”


VNLOK's other members are Fair Play Online, Holland, Casino, Jack's Online, Nederlandse Loterij, and ZEBetting & Gaming.


Several Netherlands-licensed operators failed to prevent third-party deposits to player accounts

An investigation by Oddsbeater and CasinoNieuws found that several Netherlands-licensed operators failed to prevent the deposit of player funds from bank accounts not owned by the registered account holder.


In several cases, it appeared to be possible for minors with an identical last name as the registered player to deposit funds in the player account maintained by the operator.


Dutch online gambling regulations stipulate that deposits into a player account can only be made from a bank account that can be “unequivocally traced” to the person of the registered player.


Bingoal, Holland Casino, Tombola, and TOTO were among the operators who failed to stop such transactions.


In theory, these failings would have allowed minors to gamble with their own money through a parent's or other relative's player account – but only if the login details of said player account had been compromised or deliberately shared.


Netherlands Gambling Authority applied tolerance policy for online gambling operators until 2013

Documents, which were published following a freedom of information (WOB) request, revealed that the Netherlands Gambling Authority used its prioritization criteria both as an internal tool to decide which operators would face enforcement action and as a signal to external parties under which conditions their nominally illegal actions would be tolerated.


According to a second document, the Board of the Dutch regulator formally decided to end this ambiguity during a board meeting that took place on May 21, 2013. From this date onward, the regulator's prioritization criteria would only be used as an internal decision-making tool and unlicensed operators should no longer be able to treat the prioritization criteria as an implicit promise to be left alone if certain conditions were met.


The published documents at least partially contradict prior claims by the Dutch regulator that it never applied a tolerance policy. While this may have formally been the case, these recently published documents reveal that the regulator was internally aware that, in practice, the situation was more complex and that implicit assurances had, indeed, been given.


While testifying during a criminal trial against the owners of “Amsterdams Casino,” an unlicensed online operator that was shut down by the authorities in 2013, then-State Secretary Fred Teeven confirmed the existence of a de facto policy of regulatory forbearance:


“If operators adhered to a number of conditions, we would not actively enforce the law. Officially it was not a tolerance policy. But those companies could rest assured that they would not be prosecuted.”

In this particular case, it should be noted, however, that “Amsterdams Casino” violated not just the law, but also the Netherlands Gambling Authority's prioritization criteria that were in force at the time.


Dutch regulator imposes penalty payment on CasinoGrounds.com

The Netherlands Gambling Authority has imposed an incremental penalty payment on Performing Media Ltd, owner of CasinoGrounds.com.


This appears to be the first time that an English-language affiliate website has found itself in the crosshairs of the Dutch regulator. The Gambling Authority noted, however, that the affiliate was advertising for an unnamed Netherland-facing unlicensed operator.


Netherlands Gambling Authority chair warns operators over deposit and playing limits

In a personal blog post, Netherlands Gambling Authority chair, René Jansen has called on operators to offer appropriate deposit and playing limits.


Dutch gaming regulations require players to set deposit and playing time limits. As these limits were primarily meant to boost player awareness, no maximums were specified. This would allow players older than 23 years of age to set playing time limits of 24 hours a day and seven days a week, plus a deposit limit of €100,000 per day.


Jansen said:


“Strictly speaking, a provider does nothing wrong with this. Nevertheless, I would like to call on operators to look at this quickly and carefully. It may not be to the letter, but it is to the spirit of the law to curb the limits to be set. [...]
As I have said before: if operators themselves do not take sufficient responsibility, the government will do so.”

In related news, the Dutch regulator also warned customers using illegal gambling websites to withdraw their funds as quickly as possible, as they might not be able to do so in the future if these websites are shut down following enforcement action by the Netherlands Gambling Authority.


Netherlands Gambling Authority applied tolerance policy for online gambling operators until 2013

Documents, which were published following a freedom of information (WOB) request, revealed that the Netherlands Gambling Authority used its prioritization criteria both as an internal tool to decide which operators would face enforcement action and as a signal to external parties under which conditions their nominally illegal actions would be tolerated.


According to a second document, the Board of the Dutch regulator formally decided to end this ambiguity during a board meeting that took place on May 21, 2013. From this date onward, the regulator's prioritization criteria would only be used as an internal decision-making tool and unlicensed operators should no longer be able to treat the prioritization criteria as an implicit promise to be left alone if certain conditions were met.


The published documents at least partially contradict prior claims by the Dutch regulator that it never applied a tolerance policy. While this may have formally been the case, these recently published documents reveal that the regulator was internally aware that, in practice, the situation was more complex and that implicit assurances had, indeed, been given.


While testifying during a criminal trial against the owners of “Amsterdams Casino,” an unlicensed online operator that was shut down by the authorities in 2013, then-State Secretary Fred Teeven confirmed the existence of a de facto policy of regulatory forbearance:

“If operators adhered to a number of conditions, we would not actively enforce the law. Officially it was not a tolerance policy. But those companies could rest assured that they would not be prosecuted.”

In this particular case, it should be noted, however, that “Amsterdams Casino” violated not just the law, but also the Netherlands Gambling Authority's prioritization criteria that were in force at the time.