Netherlands Fine Tuning Gambling Regulations, Moving Toward Open Market

Last week, Sander Dekker, Minister for Legal Protection of the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security posted a statement outlining his Ministry’s plans for changes to the Netherlands’ Remote Gambling Act in an effort to open up the country for online gambling while at the same time offering protections to players.

Not that long ago, it looked like the Netherlands was going to go in much the opposite direction: ring-fence its players from the rest of the world and make the state-owned Holland Casino, which holds a land-based gambling monopoly in the country, the lone authorized online gambling provider.

But Dekker and his Ministry are looking to make the rules for online gambling much more liberal, offering a “more robust gaming policy in the Netherlands.” It all revolves around player safety, though.

Foreign Operators Allowed

In the posted letter, Dekker says that online gambling providers who are licensed in other EU/EEA countries can offer games in the Netherlands, but they must “appoint a representative in the field of addiction prevention” in order to team up effectively with members of the Dutch healthcare system.

Operators that do not have licenses in the EU/EEA will be permitted to apply for a license in the Netherlands, but they must establish an office in the country.

Strong Problem Gambling Measures Included

Addiction prevention is also given its own section in the letter (translated by Google):

Many Dutch people play (online) games of chance. Many of them (several hundred thousand) have done so for years without protection. The government has therefore been working for a long time on regulating (online) games of chance by means of the bill on remote games of chance. This bill already provides for a solid package of measures that supervises addiction prevention. This package has been developed on the basis of scientific research and best practices from home and abroad. New insights and developments have led to the introduction of a number of new measures to effectively combat gambling addiction, in addition to the measures arising from the bill on remote games of chance.

Separation of Games and Games of Chance

The third issue Dekker addresses is the line between “games” and “games of chance”:

In recent years, the boundary between games and online gambling has become increasingly blurred. The risk increases that especially young people are encouraged to participate. To counter this, the government wants to separate the range of games and games of chance more strictly. Recruitment and advertising activities for games of chance through games are further limited. New games of chance must not have a suction effect on vulnerable groups. That is why gambling products must be subjected to a risk analysis for addiction before they enter the market. This also looks at the recruitment and advertising activities around these products.

It is not exactly clear what he means specifically by “games,” but based on the above, it seems that it could have to do with free-to-play gambling sites. Many of these sites do permit children to play since it isn’t real gambling, but many have also been criticized (and fined by some regulators) for then advertising their real-money gambling sites to minors on the play-money sites.

In closing the letter, Dekker also calls for the government to sell Holland Casino and get out of the gambling business in order to “open up the market in a controlled manner.”

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