Senate assents to legalisation of online gambling
The Senate approved on 19 February 2019 the Draf Bill on Remote Gambling. As a result, it will become possible to apply for a licence in the Netherlands for the purpose of offering online gambling. It is currently still illegal to offer such games. The exact date on which the Remote Gambling act will enter into force or when it will be possible to apply for a licence is not yet known.
The Remote Gambling act, which is a modernisation of the Betting and Gaming Act, will make it possible to legally offer and play games of chance via the internet. The idea behind legalisation – in which many countries have preceded the Netherlands – is that issuing licences allows for the establishment of stringent conditions for online betting and gaming operators. These conditions, set out in a licence, are intended to protect players, combat gambling addiction and ensure the fairness of the game. Games of chance are a high-risk product.
In order to be eligible for a licence, potential and existing betting and gaming companies must comply with stringent conditions. They must, for instance, be affiliated with the Central Exclusion Register (CRUKS). Soon, participants in games of chance may be temporarily listed in this register, either voluntarily or involuntarily, in which case they will be precluded from participating in any form of online betting and gambling for a specified period of time.
The requirements regarding the 'duty of care' on the part of betting and gambling operators have been set out more clearly as well. Operators have a duty to monitor players' activity and intervene if risky playing behaviour (such as betting large sums or playing for long periods of time) is observed or suspected.
A third condition is that betting and gambling companies establish a Control Database (CDB) containing current operational data on the games of chance they offer, and that the Netherlands Gambling Authority has access to this database. The Netherlands Gambling Authority will be able to use the data in the CDB to monitor betting and gambling operators.
Such operators must undergo integrity testing in order to obtain a licence. Both the applicant and the request will be subject to assessment.
René Jansen, chair of the Board of Directors of the Netherlands Gambling Authority, referred to the Senate's approval of the bill as a 'milestone'. He emphasised the importance of consumer protection. 'This amendment to the Remote Gambling act empowers the Netherlands Gambling Authority to protect participants in online games of chance. Such protection is impossible in an illegal market. This modernisation of the legislation will better enable us to enforce safe gaming in a fair market – provided, that is, that players choose to play via licensed operators.'
The Netherlands Gambling Authority will continue to take action against online betting and gambling operators until the Remote Gambling act is in force. In the current situation, there is no possibility of monitoring the fairness of the game, the detection of gambling addiction and participation by vulnerable groups, such as minors. Once the Act enters into force, the Netherlands Gambling Authority will monitor licensed online betting and gambling operators. Unlicensed operators will then be dealt with harshly, to which end the Netherlands Gambling Authority will be granted additional powers. One important instrument is that the Netherlands Gambling Authority will be able to block transactions between an illegal operator and a participant.
Nothing has changed for consumers as of yet. Only when the new Remote Gambling act enters into force will it become possible to legally take part in online games of chance. Consumers should take care to ascertain that the betting and gambling operator with whom they are playing is licensed by the Netherlands Gambling Authority.
Entry into force
The exact date when the new provisions will enter into force is not known at this time. The Minister for Legal Protection, who bears responsibility for government policy regarding games of chance, will determine this. The Netherlands Gambling Authority, which is tasked with the supervision and implementation of this policy, will soon issue licences authorising the holder to offer remote betting and gaming services (such as online games of chance). The Netherlands Gambling Authority will do so based on legislation, subordinate legislation and policy rules. The Minister and the Netherlands Gambling Authority are currently consulting on the further course of action. Setting out a licensing procedure takes time. In addition, some tasks in the implementation process have fixed terms. Examples of this are mandatory European notification and tendering.