Dutch Senate passes Remote Gaming Act

19 February 2019

The upper house of the Netherlands legislature, the Senate, has finally passed the Remote Gaming Act, paving the way for the roll-out of igaming regulation in the country.

The legislation, which was first introduced in the House of Representatives in 2014, can now be passed into law through a Royal Decree.

It is expected that licences will be issued from mid-2020, with operators required to develop comprehensive responsible gaming strategies to offer a high level of player protection. Operators will be taxed at 29.1% of gross revenue.

The Gaming Act was supported by Senators from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, Democrats 66, Party for Freedom, Labour Party and GroenLinks.

The Christian Democratic Appeal, ChristenUnie, Socialist Party, animal rights-focused Party for the Animals, pensioners’ interest 50PLUS and Reformed Political Party all voted against the bill.

Six motions, submitted during two days of debate led by Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker on February 5 and 12, were also put to a Senate vote earlier today (February 19).

The first, proposed by Socialist Party Senator Arda Gerkens, proposed only allowing companies with no activity in the Netherlands in the past five years to apply for licences, though this failed to garner significant support. However, Labour Party Senator André Postema’s proposal to establish a two-year ‘cooling-off period’ for any company that had targeted Dutch customers was adopted.

Another motion, asking the government to consider a ban on online gaming advertising was passed, with a more stringent motion calling for an outright ban for igaming operators rejected.

Two more motions were also accepted. The first from ChristenUnie Senator Mirjam Bikker mandates the government perform an evaluation of measures designed to protect minors from the negative effects of gambling. The second, introduced by Postema, will see the government required to inform the Dutch legislature of its criteria for having internet service providers block access to websites.

The Senate’s approval brings to an end a long period of uncertainty in the Dutch market. The Remote Gaming Act was passed by the House of Representatives in 2016, but spent more than two years in limbo after stalling in the Senate.

During this time Dutch gaming regulator the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) looked to step up efforts to crack down on unlicensed activity in the market. However, a survey commissioned by land-based operator Holland Casino in January revealed that the number of citizens gambling via illegal sites had risen to around 1.8m.

Dekker, who played a major role in shepherding the legislation into law after it stalled in 2016, said he was happy to have pushed through a framework that would ensure a high level of consumer protection.

"We see that society is digitizing, and more than half a million Dutch people are participating unprotected in online gambling currently,” he said. “This involves big risks such as gambling addiction and fraud. 

“I am happy that we can now offer players a secure system in which games of chance can be played online in a responsible manner.”

The bill’s passage was welcomed by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), which also congratulated Dekker for his efforts to regulate the Dutch market.

“Online gambling is popular in the Netherlands and the current situation is neither justifiable nor tenable – because 1.8 million Dutch people are gambling online without regulatory protection under Dutch law,” EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer said. “Our message is simple: it is in the interests of everyone to have a well-regulated market which protects players.”

However Haijer warned that the Netherlands would need to ensure that it strikes balance between ensuring a high level of consumer protection and offering a commercially-viable tax regime if the regulated market is to succeed.

“We now look forward to working with the Dutch Gambling Commission, De Kansspelautoriteit, to ensure an effective implementation of the new rules in a timely and consumer-friendly way,” Haijer added.