The Netherlands Gambling Authority (NGA) is the Dutch independent regulator for gambling. The NGA focuses, inter alia, on the compliance of gambling providers with the applicable laws and regulations. The Dutch Gambling Act (Act) provides the NGA with several enforcement instruments in case of a breach of gambling laws. One of the enforcement instruments available to the NGA is imposing fines on operators if they offer and/or promote illegal games of chance.
The NGA recently announced that it had imposed a fine of EUR 270,000 on an online gambling services operator. For several years, the operator in question offered online gambling, including online scratch cards and online bingo, to Dutch players without a license. In the same case, the NGA imposed a fine of EUR 100.000 on a group company of the operator which provided the promotional channel for the operator's online games. The fines were originally imposed in July 2017, but the matters were not published pending appeal proceedings. After the Court in The Hague recently rejected both appeals, the decision was published.
Under the current Act games of chance, which involve gambling, are only permitted with a license granted by the NGA. The legal regime does not allow the granting of a license to offer online/remote games of chance. Online games of chance are therefore forbidden under Dutch law. However, the reach of online gambling has grown strongly, despite this ban. In recent years, the NGA has stated several times that the current Act does not provide sufficient resources to effectively tackle illegal online gambling. This results in online illegal gambling via services offered by non-Dutch providers.
Since 2012 the Dutch Government has indicated that gambling policy needs to modernize in a way that online gambling will be properly regulated with appropriate safeguards. The legalization of online gambling is an ongoing process in the Netherlands. In February this year, the Dutch Senate approved an amendment of the Act. This amendment, also known as the Remote Gambling Act, will, among other things, organize and regulate online gambling under strict conditions. For instance, online gambling providers must keep a closer eye on players and must ensure that minors are not temped to gamble. In addition, illegal providers who focused on the Dutch market before can only apply for a license after a cooling-off period. In the context of prevention of gambling addiction, a central register will be established that temporarily excludes problem players from participating in risky games.
Online gambling will therefore become legal in the Netherlands – one of the last European countries to legalize it. The date on which the Remote Gambling Act will come into force has not been published yet. According to the NGA, applications for a license for online gambling will start on the 1st of July 2020. The current aim is that the legal online gambling market with fully licensed providers will open by 1 January 2021.