After several years, the Netherlands government has begun to implement a law regarding online gambling in the country. The Remote Gambling Act comes into effect on the 1st of October and will ban all unregulated actions on the online gambling market. All operators wishing to stay will have to get a Dutch gambling license. In this article, we will go further into this act and discuss what it means for online poker in the Netherlands.
The Remote Gambling Act
Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) is the gambling regulator of the Netherlands and is responsible for the Remote Gambling Act that comes into effect on the 1st of October. It was first established all the way back in 2012 and has begun to work on the document that would restrict online gambling. However, this document would reach the parliament only in 2016. Since then, the Remote Gambling Act was constantly postponed until its introduction on April 1st, 2021. But, this document did not include any specific dates when gambling operators must exit the Dutch market.
After some time the final date of this legislation was set to be the 1st of October, 2021. From this date, online gambling operators will have to obtain a 5-year license to continue their operations in the Netherlands. They would also be taxed with 31% of their total profit. Many operators were surprised by the absence of the transition period that would help some offshore companies acquire a license.
Moreover, if the online gambling company decided to disobey this law, then it will receive a fine of anywhere between $150,000 and $600,000. If a given company generates over €15 million in annual revenue, it will be fined 4% of its total revenue.
Such a policy was introduced because many unlicensed online gambling providers would actively target Dutch players. For example, the Dutch government will ban all such sites that use a .nl domain, are written in Dutch, are advertised in the country, including national symbols, and allow users to use iDEAL (local payment method). Unibet and Betfair became targets of such sanctions and received a several months band as they did not comply with some of these rules.
It is estimated that over 1.5 million people are actively gambling online in the Netherlands. Out of them, around 800 thousand play on illegal gambling websites. The national market value is estimated to be around 800 million euros, according to the KSA. Rene Jansen, chairman of the board of directors of the Gambling Authority, said the following regarding this law:
“Many do not even know that it is illegal. There is no supervision at the moment. We cannot really intervene on how they gamble. For the first time, we now have instruments with which we can really intervene.”
What Does This Mean for Online Poker?
Right after this law was introduced, several operators have submitted their applications for a Dutch gambling license. The list was mostly dominated by local companies such as Holland Casino and TOTO Online BV. However, they were followed by international companies that are popular in Europe. Such companies were Bet365 and GGPoker.
Many Dutch players will be excited about the return of GGPoker, given that it left the Netherlands two years ago. Its return is not surprising, as GGPoker did not receive any fines from the Netherlands throughout its years of operating. It is very advantageous for GGPoker to become one of the first legal poker rooms in the Netherlands, as it will likely help outperform competitors in terms of traffic.
iPoker Network is also expected to acquire a Dutch gambling license in the near future due to Playtech’s cooperation with Holland Casino since 2013. Similarly, 888poker is also expected to enter the Netherlands market, as it was able to avoid sanctions from the KSA.
However, other poker rooms were not as lucky. PokerStars, Unibet, partypoker, and Bwin will be forced to undergo a “cooling-off period” and will be required to temporarily leave the Netherlands. That is because these rooms were previously fined by the KSA for their active involvement of Dutch citizens in online gambling. These rooms will be allowed to submit a license application only in the second quarter of next year. Therefore, these poker rooms are unlikely to appear on the Dutch market at least until mid-2022.
It is unlikely that PokerStars will not comply with the government’s orders. Their business model shifted to operate only within regulated markets after Black Friday. As an example, PokerStars left the US market until returning to New Jersey in 2015 and Pennsylvania in 2019. Their track record proves that this operator is unlikely to go against the government. Not to mention their recent lawsuit with Kentucky for $300 million.
The Netherlands is considered by many to be the fastest-growing online gambling market in Europe. Therefore, such news and legislations are crucial for many online poker operators. Nobody wants to miss out on such perspective traffic. It will be interesting to see which poker rooms will manage to get licensed in the Netherlands in the near future. We will keep you informed on this matter.