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Netherlands - online gambling regulations

Gambling in the Netherlands

The Dutch are a nation that has always been known to have a very liberal approach towards things most other nations would consider taboo. They’ve legalized prostitution and marijuana where others have tried their utmost to keep these things illegal. One would think for such a liberal government, online gambling would be no big deal.

The truth is that when it comes to online gambling the Dutch Government has taken a very conservative approach. All forms of legal gambling in the Netherlands are under strict control by the Dutch Government. The strict approach can be seen as a way the government seeks to protect its citizens.

With the online gambling industry constantly changing, growing and improving, there has been a rapid rise in interest in this popular online pastime. It is therefore important that the government applies new laws and regulations, either to completely ban or to legalize online gambling.

The current stance on legal online gambling is changing, as the country has opted to implement a new Remote Gaming Law. In this guide, we take a look at the history of gambling in the Netherlands, the current laws and what future laws might do for online gambling in the country.

Online gambling regulations in Netherlands

The history of online gambling in the Netherlands

Since the mid-1970s, Holland Casino has been the only company authorized to manage every phase of the gambling market. The company has been able, independently and in partnership with other firms retained by them, to manage all 13 of the licensed casinos in the region, as well as every other gambling activity, from the lottery to sports betting and horse racing.

The first Dutch casino, Zandvoort, was also opened by them when they first came into power in the 1970s. Over the years online gambling came into play and many players were left confused regarding the legalities of their gameplay.

Before 2005 the Dutch Gaming Authority, Kansspelautoriteit, made a point of reminding operators that it was illegal to target players from the Netherlands, and also warned them not to accept any Dutch citizens into their casinos. The warning was clearly not enough, as the Dutch Supreme Court made a ruling in 2005 that any online casino offering services to Dutch players or allowing them to participate in the act of gambling on their site, is doing so illegally.

Many online operators, especially the major ones such as Ladbrokes and Betfair, were not impressed by the ruling and took matters to the courts. They claimed that the Netherlands restrictions were not consistent with EU laws.

While the matter was deferred and the European Court of Justice got to decide on the ruling, the Dutch court officially declared that the court had the right to ban online gambling. The reason behind this was that any ban placed with the intention of preventing crime or gambling addiction among citizens was for the right reason. The online gambling ban was upheld by the Netherlands Supreme Court during a new ruling in February 2012.

Luckily, in 2013 some good news came to light, as there were whispers of the Netherlands Gaming Authority drafting new legislation that would permit online gambling in the Netherlands. The legislation was passed in 2014, which was history in itself as it overturned a 50-year-old law that banned foreign companies from entering the Dutch gambling market. The catch was that only approved operators would receive a 5-year licence which they could use to run a range of skill and chance games.

What is happening with the new laws and changes of the Remote Gaming Bill?

While the Netherlands finally opened up their doors to approved operators, they are still not fully on par with neighbouring countries. With there being a push to make online gambling completely legal in the Netherlands 2019 is proving to be a pivotal year for the countries iGaming market.

The Dutch government are currently working on making changes to their Remote Gaming Bill in an effort to re-regulate the online gaming market.

Earlier in 2019 the Netherlands’ Minister for Legal Protection, Sander Dekker, published secondary legislation to govern online gambling. This secondary legislation to the remote gambling bill was notified to parliament on the 24th of July and addresses all online gaming requirements. This includes game integrity, marketing and bonus restrictions, the duty of care requirements and anti-money laundering rules.

The new legislation will finally allow international online operators to apply for iGaming licenses within the Netherlands. The newly reworked Remote Gambling Bill will allow players to legally enjoy online casino games, poker and sports betting. While there is not a lot of information on what the new legislation will entail there are some aspects of the bill that has become known.

As soon as the iGaming regulations are put in effect all iGaming operators will be expected to adopt specific tools and policies to minimize the risk of gambling addiction. Players will be better protected and have access to tools such as self-exclusion programs on all gaming sites.

More on the legislation cannot be said, although there have been rumours about the sports betting rules being too restrictive. In recent consultation operators such as Bet365 have argued some key aspects on the sports betting legislation saying it would force players towards illegal sites.

The new legislation drafted currently is proposing a ban on betting on events that are under the influence of one participant and have no overriding influence on the course or outcome of the contest. This could prevent players from placing popular bets on single players and popular Golf or Tennis tournaments. Nothing is determined as of yet and this could still be changed after valid arguments were made regarding how the legislative restrictions could affect the sports betting market when it launches in 2021.

The “Cooling Off” Period

When the Dutch legislature passed the Remote Gambling Bill earlier in 2019 they added a few stipulations of operators wishing to obtain a Dutch gaming license. One of the major stipulations was that operators who continued to actively offer services to Dutch customers, without the permission of the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) regulatory body, would have to serve a two year “cooling off” period. Only after serving the period would they become eligible for a new Dutch online gambling license. According to the draft policy rule, the operator must not have been actively targeting the Dutch market any later than 2018 in order to be eligible for a license application.

According to the KSA’s criteria ‘actively’ is defined by a number of things including operators using a website with a .nl domain, offering Dutch language services, promoting ads targeting Dutch customers or using branding or imagery associated with the Netherlands. Another key no-go for operators is allowing players to transact with Dutch payment processors such as iDeal.

The KSA also made it clear that any operator still targeting the Dutch market after 1 July 2019 will be permanently excluded from applying for a Dutch online license. The licensing window is set to open in mid-2020 and the newly regulated market will launch on the 1st of January 2021.

Do I have to pay Gambling Tax?

For players, there is no taxation on any gambling winnings. Players are not even required to report their winnings. While you are playing at legal online casinos in the Netherlands you can do so knowing you get to take your winnings home. The Government has focused its tax requirements strictly on gaming operators.

This is a cause of concern for some, as the tax for regulated gambling operators currently stands at 29%, but it might go up with the new Gaming Bill which will lead to operators paying a hefty 30.1% tax. The rate will be reduced again but this new tax rise, according to the Dutch Gaming Authority, is necessary while they make adjustments to introduce the new gambling law.

Is online gambling legal in the Netherlands?

Online gambling isn’t fully legal, and players are urged to play at sites that have been approved by the government. The approved sites are fully licensed and regulated, which makes them safer to play.

As a Dutch online casino player, you might be in for a long waiting period due to new restrictions and policies put in place by the KSA. All operators wanting to obtain a Dutch online gambling license will no longer be offering players the opportunity to play on their sites.

The newly regulated market is only set to launch at the start of 2021 so a long waiting period lies ahead. Of course, you will find a few foreign operators who will test the boundaries and still offer their services to Dutch players despite warnings. While it might be tempting it would be best to avoid these sites as the Dutch regulatory body is focused on taking down all illegally operating sites.

Playing at such a site has no legal impact on you as a player but major losses can be suffered if the site is shut down unexpectedly. To avoid loss of funds it would be best to stay within the limits and play only at legally licensed Dutch online casinos.

Looking to the future, it remains to be seen whether or not the rise of Covid-19 around the world will cause a delay in the new laws for the Netherlands moving forward. For now, the 1st of January 2021 is the date set to kick off the regulated online gambling market in the country.

Along with providing a legal and safe space for players to enjoy a full range of online casinos, it will also allow operators to expand their offerings to players.

One of the biggest issues faced by online punters in the Netherlands is that they don’t often have online casinos that cater to their home language. Once online casinos are legal, this will push operators to create gambling spaces that cater to Dutch speakers in the best way possible.

The new laws in place will also make playing safer than ever before by introducing Trustly verification. Simple and fuss-free, verifying accounts via Trustly means more responsible gambling and less chance of accounts being used by the wrong people.

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