KSA admits fining illegal operators ‘has little effect’

22 January 2019

The Netherlands’ gambling regulator, the Kansspelautoriteit, has admitted that imposing fines on illegal online operators has had a negligible impact as it set out its agenda for 2019 ahead of a possible end to the country's iGaming deadlock next month.

The Dutch Senate is due to meet on February 5 to debate the long-awaited Remote Gambling Bill, some three years after the legislature’s lower house approved the law. The Senate could vote on the bill on February 12, with the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) saying that it “assumes” the bill will be adopted.

In a document outlining its plans for 2019, the watchdog streamlined its topics of responsibility from six to four in its ‘Supervisory Agenda’. The regulator did this by incorporating “operational management and control” into each area and combining the areas of “illegal supply” and “combating crime”. The other three priority areas of supervision covered tackling participation by minors; preventing addiction; and strict oversight of advertising and player recruitment.

However, the KSA acknowledged that its efforts to clamp down on illegal operators had been challenging.

“The KSA has increasingly imposed fines on online providers in recent years,” it said in its document.

“These have so far had little effect on the extent of the illegal online offer. In a number of cases fines have not been paid. These fines can then hardly be collected as providers are abroad, outside the scope of the KSA.”

The regulator added that many punters are unaware that certain websites are illegal and are also in the dark about the risks of placing bets on such platforms.

The KSA also said that the growing use of computers and mobile devices had made it more difficult to identify illegal websites.

“The providers… respond quickly to the KSA’s approach and know how to disguise the offer better,” it added.

The KSA issued a record €1.7m (£1.5m/$1.9m) in fines to companies that breached rules and regulations in 2018.

To step up its efforts, the watchdog said that it would “continue to look for innovative ways to reduce illegal online offers” as much as possible and “make them less accessible to the consumer”.

The watchdog added that it would monitor closely the use of loot boxes, as well as the overlap between games that can target young people and gambling, and advertising campaigns by websites and affiliates.

“The KSA is concerned about the addictiveness of loot boxes in games and more generally about the mixing of games and games of chance, especially when it comes to games that are popular with minors,” the regulator said.

To this end, a new Duty of Care Guidelines document will be distributed to providers this year by the KSA.

The regulator, which invited feedback to be submitted by February 11 – the day before the scheduled vote on the bill – said that it would prepare to establish a licensing process if the legislation is adopted.