Dutch government hails success of hardline stance on unlicensed gambling

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Ordering unlicensed operators to stop passively accepting bets from Dutch customers has helped channel players to licensed igaming sites, a Dutch government report suggests.

The report, presented to the Dutch parliament by Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker, included included data on the number of visits to gambling websites recorded in the Netherlands from 1 October, when the country’s igaming market opened.

Just ahead of this date, the Dutch government changed its stance towards operators passively accepting bets from Dutch players, without offering their services in the local language or providing local payment services. This led to a host of high-profile operators announcing that they would block Dutch customers, including EntainKindred Group, 888Betsson, Leovegas and Casumo.

The report looked at traffic to gaming websites, which it split into three groups: the 10 initial licensees in the Dutch market, a number of websites that opted to block Dutch customers when the market opened, and a number of other unlicensed websites that failed to block access.

On 1 October, traffic to those that blocked Dutch customers plummeted, but did not disappear entirely, Dekker explained.

The customers of these sites did not appear to switch to the other unlicensed operators, the sites that did not block Dutch players also declined slightly. The licensees were the main beneficiaries, with their traffic soaring from 1 October.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean there are more players, or that more money is being spent than before,” Dekker added, however.

The figures cited by Entain and Kindred in the wake of cutting access to Dutch players, he added, had also prompted H2 Gambling Capital to revise its estimates for the size of the Netherlands’ igaming market upwards. Kindred said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) would be cut by £12m per month as a result of its withdrawal, while Entain said its earnings would be reduced by £5m per month.

The report noted that 33 licence applications had been submitted as of 1 November, of which a number were still pending. There is likely to be an influx of new submissions once the cooling-off periods for operators that took bets from Dutch customers before the Remote Gaming Act came into force can apply, it added.

Early signs suggested that customers were also using the country’s self-exclusion system Centraal Register Uitsluiting Kansspelen (Cruks). As of 1 November, around 3,500 people had registered.

There were 288 calls to problem gambling support service Loket Kanspel, with callers referred to professional treatment providers in two instances.

Dutch regulator de Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) is continuing to take action against unlicensed operators. Last month, it selected 25 gambling websites to monitor to determine if they were blocking Dutch customers. 

The regulator also granted its 11th online gambling licence last month, to JOI Gaming, a division of Dutch land-based casino operator JVH Gaming & Entertainment Group. It joins Bet365, UK-based bingo operator Tombola, which has since been acquired by Flutter, Play North, land-based operator Holland Casino and state lottery Nederlandse Loterij with its Toto Online brand.

The Janshen Hahnraths Group with FPO Nederland, Italy-based Betent, Belgian brand Bingoal, NSUS Malta, which runs the GGPoker.eu brand and sports media and betting business LiveScore Malta also secured licences in the initial wave.

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