Key note speech by René Jansen, Gaming In Holland conference, 22 September 2020
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very glad that you all could join us here, both physically in the lovely Beurs van Berlage and remotely via your laptop cameras. Willem van Oort, my sincere thanks once again for inviting me to speak here today. This is the first time I have been able to speak in front of a ‘live’ audience since the COVID-19 pandemic made its presence felt in Europe. It's a great feeling! Our coming together now is especially gratifying because of the crucial months we have in front of us.
That applies to the Kansspelautoriteit or Ksa in Dutch, the Netherlands Gambling Authority, but also for you. At gatherings like this one, my predecessor and I have frequently expressed the expectation that the Remote Gambling Act (Wet Kansspelen op Afstand, Koa) would soon be a reality. Or alternately, that the Ksa had announced that, unfortunately, its introduction had again been delayed. Now, however, the moment has actually arrived. The countdown has begun!
In all likelihood, the Remote Gambling Act Koa will enter into effect on 1 March 2021. This means that from that date on, it will be possible to submit applications for online gambling licences. And that, in turn, means that the online gambling market will open on 1 September 2021.
Ksa staff has worked extremely hard in the recent period. From your perspective, some of those efforts were less visible, as most of the work took place behind the scenes. As you know, the new Act is an extremely detailed piece of legislation. In the interest of the players and to prevent gambling addiction, no aspect of the Act can be left to chance. Once the Act had been passed by Parliament in February 2019, the ministry needed to draft a great deal of subordinate legislation and present it to the House of Representatives. The House adopted motions, which then had to be incorporated. After that, the next step was the still-ongoing notification procedure with the European Commission in order to verify conformity with the internal EU market. Also ongoing at the moment is an advisory process with the Council of State, which is responsible for evaluating the quality of legislation. All of which is to say, this process is certainly no walkover – even before the coronavirus simultaneously reared its ugly head.
In any case, we can now plan for 1 March 2021 as the start date for applying for a licence to offer online gambling. The Minister for Legal Protection, Sander Dekker, has allowed no time to go to waste and has shown a great ability to stay on course. For that, I feel we owe him our gratitude – and it deserves to be said! I am firmly convinced that, in a regulated market, we will be much better able to protect consumers from the dangers of online gambling than is currently the case. As it happens, this is precisely the reason why the Ksa exists: to ensure that consumers can play safely.
The Ksa has taken full advantage of the time required for the legislative process. We have developed the Central Exclusion Register, CRUKS, and handed it over to the operational managing party, Netcompany. The Data Safe (CDB, Controle Databank), which is the instrument online operators will use to monitor gambling behaviour and that will serve as the basis for Ksa's digital supervision of the operators, is ready to go. Once the notification process for the CDB has been completed with the European Commission, we will publish the technical requirements; this will probably be next month.
We have also been hard at work drafting the various necessary policy rules. Via these policy rules, the Ksa is translating the laws and regulations into real-world practice in connection with implementation and supervision. Next month, we will arrange a consultation regarding the draft policy rule on Responsible Gambling: market parties like yourself will have an opportunity to respond to what the Ksa expects of you in terms of addiction prevention and advertising. The draft policy rule for Remote Gambling (the Koa rule) will then follow in November. In practical terms, this will serve as the foundation for the application procedure, in which we will demonstrate how the Ksa translates the legal requirements into conditions for an online gambling licence. Another area in which we've made progress is the draft scheme for testing or assessment standards regarding the technical gambling platforms. The law requires operators to arrange independent testing of all aspects of their gambling platforms. We aim to publish the final testing scheme in November, which will be informed in part by experiences from practical testing conducted by a small number of testing organisations and operators.
The specifics of which documents and information you can expect to receive from the Ksa in the coming period, and when you can expect these, can be found on our website. We have published the Remote Gambling Act communication calendar there as well. This calendar focuses on three target groups: the land-based operators, the online operators and the remaining stakeholders (such as municipalities and healthcare institutions that provide addiction treatment). I cannot emphasise this strongly enough: it is vital that each of you effectively prepares for the licence application. The process is extremely involved. The goal of the legislator is to see that only those operators who place a high value on responsible gambling will receive a licence. If that is not true in your case, the Ksa will not issue you a licence.
I will be frank: the Ksa also stands to benefit from effective preparation on your part. If your applications are incomplete, or otherwise submitted without the proper diligence, you are at risk of being denied a licence or having that licence issued later than 6 months after submission. But such issues cost time and energy on Ksa's part as well. We would prefer to spend that time and energy processing carefully-prepared and complete applications. You and we therefore share a common interest in this regard!
In order to ensure a smooth process on our end, the Ksa is currently setting up a temporary department for the purpose of processing the licence applications. This Koa Licences department will be staffed by employees of the Ksa itself, supplemented by temporary staff we will hire and train ourselves. In designing the procedure, a great deal of attention is being devoted to the ICT aspects. Applications will be submitted digitally and we will receive them via a digital portal. On Ksa’s end, the applications must then reach the relevant specialists at the proper moment. In short: you can rest assured that the Ksa is doing everything in its power to see that, starting on 1 March, it is able to process licence applications in a streamlined way within a period of six months.
I can imagine that there are those among you with a burning question on the tip of your tongue: how will the 1 March start date impact the so-called Postema parliamentary motion? In this motion, Parliament has asked the Minister to see to it that operators who apply for a licence in the Netherlands, must have refrained from actively and specifically offering their online gambling services to the Dutch market for at least two years prior to their licence application. The answer to your question is that when we receive an application for a licence, we will look at the applicant’s activities for a period of two years and eight months prior to the date of their application. The review period of two years and eight months reflects the delay incurred in relation to the date on which the law was previously intended to enter into force. In other words: an operator who applies for a licence on 1 March 2021, will need to have ensured that their offerings have not specifically and actively targeted Dutch consumers from 1 July 2018 on. To assess whether that is the case, we will examine certain criteria. These include, but are not limited to, making use of the Dutch language and payment platforms popular in The Netherlands. In order to be eligible for a licence, operators must also have had adequate age verification in place from 1 January 2020 on, in order to effectively prevent minors from participating in gambling.
I would now like to address, for a moment, the land-based operators specifically. This is because people sometimes lose sight of the fact that the new Act will do more than simply legalise and regulate online gambling. The Act represents an urgently desired modernisation of Dutch gambling policy in another aspect as well, namely that the new law will establish strict requirements in terms of addiction prevention and advertising. Under the new regime, these requirements will apply to all operators of risky gambling products, both online and land-based. Perhaps the most significant change for the land-based sector is that arcades and casinos will need to check whether players are registered in CRUKS, the Central Exclusion Register. For the land-based sector, the obligation to connect with CRUKS was initially scheduled to coincide with the new Act entering into force. In other words, six months before the online market was to open. These dates have now been synchronised: 1 September 2021. That adjustment was made partly as a result of the measures which had to be taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The land-based industry was obliged to shut down for a period of three and a half months, from mid-March to 1 July. I can therefore fully understand the Minister's decision to accommodate the land-based sector and to shift the CRUKS obligation for arcades and casinos to 1 September. It is in all of our interests that the parties involved are given sufficient time to prepare for the new legal regime aimed at preventing gambling addiction. Such prevention is ultimately in the interest of the player, who must be able to gamble safely.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'll wrap this up now. The Ksa will be providing you with a great deal of information in the coming months. Information about which documents you will need to have ready to submit. About the exact conditions that will need to be met. And about how the Ksa will assess licence applications when the time comes. I urge you to review this information carefully. And by ‘you’ I mean the individual operators. But I also mean industry organisations such as VAN Kansspelen, EGBA and the still-fledgling association NOGA (Netherlands Online Gambling Association), who also have a role to play in preparing the online and land-based operators. As do the authorised representatives tasked with submitting the licence applications. Starting that process in a timely fashion will benefit you greatly down the road!
And with that suggestion, I'd like to conclude these remarks. For now, however, thank you in advance for your attention!