Situated in the northwestern part of the Old Continent, the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy whose name translates as “a low-lying country”. Known for its windmills, trademark wooden shoes, vast tulip-bulb fields, and masters of painting, the country is home to a population of over 17 million nationals. It has a well-developed market economy, heavily driven by foreign trading. The island countries Sint Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao are also part of the monarchy.
The Netherlands is among the six countries that formally established the European Union in 1993, alongside France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Italy. The country has a strictly regulated but heavily monopolized landbased gambling industry that comprises 14 gambling halls, all of which are operated by the state-owned company Holland Casino.
Holland Casino has branches in some of the largest cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leeuwarden, Breda, and Utrecht. Part of the gambling revenue goes directly toward the national treasury. The overall turnover of the Dutch gambling market is estimated at €2 billion, with one-fourth of this amount going toward various charities. The state treasury pockets roughly €500 million from the sector’s total turnover.
The Netherlands is yet to see a thriving, open, and regulated online gambling market. Gambling over the Internet remains prohibited in the Netherlands for the time being although Dutch players are not prosecuted by the government for placing wagers on offshore casino sites.
With that said, there is a silver lining thanks to the passage of the Draft Bill on Remote Gambling in February 2019. This piece of legislation will allow for the issuing of licenses to private online gambling operators. It will also pave the way for adequate regulations of the interactive sector of the local gambling industry.
Laws Governing the Landbased Gambling Sector in the Netherlands
Landbased gambling is legal and well-regulated on Dutch soil under the provisions of the Betting and Gaming Act of 1964. However, there is a state monopoly over the entire landbased gaming sector, which is operated by a single licensee in the face of the government-owned Holland Casino.
Online Gambling Legislation in the Netherlands
The Winds of Change
Unlike landbased gambling, placing bets over the Internet is still considered illegal in the Netherlands. With that said, we should also take into account the so-called e-commerce exceptions that allow licensed landbased casino operators in the country to offer online products. They are treated as an extension of their landbased offering. However, none of the authorized casinos has chosen to do so.
Sports wagering and lotteries are exempt from the ban because they fall outside the scope of the state-owned Holland Casino. Such forms of gambling are controlled by the Dutch De Lotto. The latter has a website, allowing Dutch players to punt on sports and purchase lottery tickets.
Holland Casino used to offer gambling services over the Internet in the past but this is no longer the case. No such games are presently available on the operator’s official website. The country’s regulators have not issued any online gambling licenses at the moment of writing. Dutch players resort to using the services to offshore gambling operators, some of which continue to accept registrations from the Netherlands despite the ban.
There are normally no repercussions for locals who gamble on international websites. This is not the case where unauthorized operators are concerned, though, as transgressors are sometimes hit with heavy fines. One such case occurred in August 2019 when the Dutch regulatory body imposed a €470,000 fine on the Kindred Group. The operator suffered this penalty because it accepted wagers from Dutch players without having a license by the Netherlands Gambling Authority.View more...
Only landbased operators can apply for and receive valid licenses in the Netherlands, at least for the time being. The licensing requirements and procedures for casino gaming permits are outlined in Article 27 of the Betting and Gaming Act of 1964. Each operator is entitled to no more than one casino gaming license. Those who violate the licensing conditions risk having their permits revoked.
As for slots, there are presently no restrictions on the number of machines each licensed gambling firm can offer on its premises. Article 30 of the BGA makes a distinction between two categories of gaming devices, skill and gaming machines. A skill machine is one where the outcomes can be influenced by the players’ dexterity. All other devices that do not fall into the skill category are considered gaming machines.
It is disallowed to operate slot machines in proximity to public roads and places unless the operator is granted an exclusive permit by the respective municipality’s mayor. However, a license by the Netherlands Gambling Authority is also required for this purpose. Certain conditions regarding the gameplay duration, the exclusion of underage individuals, and the maximum amounts that can be won or lost must be met.
As for poker, it is licensed and commercially available but its provision is restricted solely to Holland Casino. Of course, this will change when the new gambling bill comes into force in 2021. Sports betting licenses are distributed under the provisions of Article 16 of the BGA.
Again, each entity or legal person can receive only one sports betting license. Most of the revenue the betting operators generate goes toward Dutch sports, public health, and culture. A separate license is granted for horse race wagering under the provisions of Article 23 of the BGA.
The licenses for the provision of lotteries have indefinite validity, with the government collecting the proceeds generated by state-run lottery games. The license conditions require lottery operators to return a minimum of 60% of all stakes to their customers.
All these permits have indefinite validity and are revoked only on the occasion of violation of the licensing conditions. As for the taxes, these are product-specific but most games are taxed at a 30.1% rate. Once the Remote Gambling Act officially comes into force in 2021, the approved applicants for virtual gaming permits will be taxed at a 29% rate.
As for the licensing produce for online gambling operators under the soon-to-be-enforced Remote Gambling Act, there will be no restrictions on the maximum number of licenses granted. Each permit will be valid for up to five years.
Separate licenses will be issued for sports betting and online casino games. The applicants for online gambling permits will be required to have registered offices either in the Netherlands or in a member state of the European Union or the European Economic Area. They will have to contribute a processing fee of €45,000 upon submitting their applications.
Betting Limits Requirements
There are also requirements on the minimum and maximum bets players can make on licensed casino games. The gambling halls operated by the state-owned Holland Casino can offer bets that range from €5 to €10,000. However, a separate condition in Article 4 of the BGA stipulates there should be at least one game with bets under €5 plus another one with wagers that should not exceed €2.
Separate bet restrictions are in place for slot machines across the Holland Casino gambling halls. The maximum permitted stake slot players can make is set at €50. Slots are the fastest-paced games on the entire casino floor. This is why the Dutch regulators require a minimum of three seconds to pass between individual spins. Each slot player can wager no more than €150 during any single gaming session. The minimum Return to Player percentage should be no less than 80%.
Legal Gambling Age and Protection of Vulnerable Players
From what we have written so far, it is pretty much obvious that the Dutch gambling regulator strives to ensure a safe and fair gaming environment for all local gamblers. It makes sense the law prohibits offering any gambling services to minors. Article 2 (e) of the Games of Chance Decree, or Kansspel Besluit, clearly states that “persons who have not yet reached the age of eighteen” cannot be admitted on the gambling premises.
Licensees of the Netherlands Gambling Authority must take all the necessary precautions to prevent problem gambling. The Dutch regulator outlines the measures in its Guidance Duty of Care, or Leidraad Zorgplicht in the native language.
While patrons are themselves responsible for their actions, licensed gambling operators also have obligations that aim to prevent addiction and its associated social harms. This is particularly important in the case of gaming machines. The latter are highly addictive and it is difficult to stop playing them at times. The option to self-exclude is made available to Dutch players as well.
As for the rules on advertising, these are outlined in Article 4 of the Betting and Gaming Act, which states the following: “The holders of permits […] shall conduct recruitment and advertising activities in a careful and balanced manner, in particular guarding against undue participation.”
In other words, gambling advertisements should not be designed in a way that attracts minors. Attention should be drawn to the risks associated with playing chance games. The statistical probability of winning should be clearly indicated. Advertising gambling products on television is prohibited between 6:00 am and 7:00 pm. Debts resulting from gambling participation are not enforceable in the Netherlands.
Gambling Regulators in the Netherlands
The casino gaming sector in the country falls under the regulatory scope of the Netherlands Gambling Authority (NGA), or Kansspelautoriteit. The regulatory authority was established in the spring of 2012. This is an independent body whose mandate is to supervise and regulate chance games in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The regulator’s operations are governed by a Board of Directors and comprise six separate departments, namely for facility management, regulation enforcement, supervision and operations, supervision and consumers, communications, and legalities. Apart from regulation, the Authority also deals with the prevention of problem gambling and customer protection.
The NGA’s official website contains information about all authorized gambling operators in the country. Also included is data about gambling addictions. According to the website, a 2011 report has estimated that the number of gambling addictions in the country ranges from 20,000 to 59,000. Those who are at risk of developing an addiction are roughly 92,000.
In addition to this, the NGA keeps a close watch on the remote operators that illegally target Dutch players. The regulator imposes hefty fines on those who are caught in violation of the local gambling laws. Once the Remote Gaming Act (RGA) is enforced, the NGA will be granted additional powers.
It will be able to instruct payment services providers to cease processing deposits and withdrawals to unlicensed gambling websites. The enforcement of the RGA will also enable the regulator to compel mobile application platforms to restrict the Dutch residents’ access to unauthorized gambling-related app content.
Once the RGA comes into effect, the regulatory body will publish a list of the approved operators on its official website. Local players can check it out to ensure they are gambling on authorized websites. Of course, the licensed operators will have to make a clear reference in regard to their license status on their websites as well. Most likely this would be the logo of the Dutch gambling regulator.
Foreign-issued licenses hold no weight in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In this vein, it is worth mentioning that some Curacao-licensed operators tend to accept customers from the Netherlands.
However, a license issued in Curacao is not valid here despite the fact the island country is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with Aruba, Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten. Each of these has its own gaming market with separate regulations. It follows the NGA has no regulatory and supervisory jurisdiction in the country’s Caribbean parts.
The Netherlands is home to one of the most stringent and restrictive gambling markets on a global scale. This is largely due to the monopoly the state holds over the entire gaming sector. Nonetheless, this grim situation is soon to change thanks to the introduction of the 2019 Remote Gaming Act.
Once enforced in 2021, this piece of legislation will enable private entities to apply for and obtain valid licenses for online gambling. Dutch gamblers will then have a broader choice of safe, fair, and regulated remote casino operators.