The Dutch regulatory body Kansspelautoriteit, or KSA, announced last week that they had collectively fined foreign operators nearly $3.9 million (€3.5 million) over the calendar year.
That beats their previous record of $1.91 million, or €1.7 million, set in 2018. Ten separate operators were fined in 2019.
These included high-profile sites, such as Leo Vegas, the Kindred Group’s Unibet, Russian-based 1xBet, and Casino.com. Each site was singled out for continuing with Dutch language marketing, sites, payment methods, or games—even though the country is in the process of preparing for its regulated market opening early next year.
The only current legal operator for Dutch citizens is Holland Casino, and all other services are considered illegal. Fines start at a new rate of €200,000 ($224,000), raised from €150k earlier in 2019, and can easily break the €500,000 mark for just a few infractions.
As we reported earlier this month, the government of nearby Sweden has seen pushback against its efforts to impose sanctions on foreign operators. So far, only one of 50 companies has coughed up the fines the regulator laid out this year.
However, things are a different story in the Netherlands. The country has a clearly defined legal market in which licensing applications opened on January 1st, as well as a better track record of forging compromises.
In this case, operators won’t want to risk being labeled ‘unreliable’ – which ‘means no license,’ according to the head of KSA, Rene Jansen. The latest operator to accept their fine was Kindred Group, who dropped their legal appeal and paid up their €470,000 fine at the beginning of December 2019.
It seems that the regulators have been backing up their big talk from the beginning of 2019 when they said that ‘cowboy operators’ would incur ‘terrible punishments’ as a deterrent for foreign casinos looking to skirt Dutch regulation.
The Netherlands’ parliament hasn’t come through on their promises in other areas. In 2019, they announced that the launch of their legal market would be delayed by six months—a move that hardly filled prospective applicants with confidence.
The holdup in the process is so that the KSA can enact an extensive vetting procedure on applicants, with measures such as anti-money laundering and anti-underage gambling tools at the forefront of their considerations.
Other criteria for a license to enter the Dutch market will include an addiction treatment specialist on the operator’s staff as well as business tax rates of 29%—one of the highest in the European market.
Adding to operators’ concerns are proposals like a complete ban on gambling advertising from some more hard-line parliament members, although the Minister of Justice, Sander Dekker, told the house that a blanket ban was almost certainly not on the table.
Still, some of those who have received the heaviest fines may yet see their license put to the bottom of the pile—with a ‘cooling-off period’ for the worst offenders also mooted by Mr. Dekker back in February.
Uncertainty is never good in any market—but with the Netherlands’ love affair with gambling already worth €2 billion a year before full regulation, there’s not too much chance of operators giving up on the country any time soon.