Home > Legal & compliance > Legal > Dutch lawyers lobby government over controversial Malta law

Dutch lawyers lobby government over controversial Malta law

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
Several Dutch lawyers have signed an open letter to the minister of legal protection, Franc Weerwind, lobbying the government to act against the controversial Maltese law, commonly known as Bill 55.
Netherlands Bill 55

The letter – which was signed by five lawyers who are involved in litigation against gambling companies – argued the Dutch government should make clear its opposition to Bill 55, which it said, “seriously undermines European law”.

Bill 55, signed into law in June, shields gambling operators from legal liability resulting from their Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)-licensed activities.

Benzi Loonstein, Herman Loonstein and Johan Oosterhagen from law firm Loonstein Lawyers signed the letter, as did Martijn Bonefaas and Anton Heilig from Van Diepen Van der Kroef Lawyers.

Could the Netherlands see a repeat of Austria and Germany?

As outlined in the letter, both firms are heavily involved in legal action against MGA-licensed gambling businesses active in the European grey market.

Similar litigation efforts in Austria and Germany have led to legal precedents in higher courts saying gambling businesses are liable for all a consumer’s historic losses.

The letter said “there is an expectation and hope” that this will also happen in the Netherlands. It pointed to a ruling by the Dutch Council of State that grey market offerings were never permitted.

While most businesses have paid out after losing such cases, some operators have continued to fight the decision – notably several 888 and Flutter brands.

Lawyers argue Bill 55 in violation of Dutch law

The lawyers highlighted European and Dutch jurisprudence.

The lawyers argued that, since the Maltese operators offered gambling without a licence from the Dutch regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), they should be required to compensate a player for all losses.

As outlined by Casino Nieuws, the letter said gambling companies were operating “illegally” due to violating Article 1 of the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act (KOA).

“The violation of the duty of care has also caused major financial, personal and social problems for many participating citizens and their environment,” read the letter. “The examples of this are numerous and unfortunately underexposed to date.”

“A dangerous precedent”

The letter said Bill 55 was a violation of the Recast Brussels Regulation. This is the EU law which handles legal judgements between member states.

However, the MGA defended the law from this point last week, pointing to a section of the law which grants an exemption if it does not match the principles of its legal system.

The letter also argued Bill 55 represents an “interference within the independent judiciary and legislature” of the Netherlands, as well as Malta.  

“After all, attempts are being made to make it impossible for Maltese judges to recognise and enforce judgments of Dutch, German and Austrian judges. A law like Bill 55 has no precedent in the EU. This law would therefore set a dangerous precedent.

“We call on the Dutch government to stand up for the interests of this group of Dutch people and to ensure, via the European Commission, that Malta does not continue with the contempt of the rule of law enshrined in the EU treaties.”

Bill 55 dispute heats up

Following its passage, the law has faced criticism from politicians and regulators in Europe, with many arguing it is ultimately incompatible with European law.

Last month, the European Commission said it would seek to scrutinise Bill 55, in written responses from an anti-gambling German politician MEP, Sabine Verheyen.

This was followed in August with the German gambling regulator, the GGL, which argued in a written statement that Bill 55 was not in line with EU law.

Subscribe to the iGaming newsletter