Many gamblers may be aware that the Dutch government has asked Apple and Google to remove any illegal online gambling apps from user’s mobile devices that target Dutch players specifically. The Dutch Gaming Authority Kansspelautoriteit reminded operators that it is illegal to specifically target players residing in the Netherlands. We doubt that it will impact the rate of gambling in any significant amounts.
While Holland Casino has been criticized by the EU for its monopoly of the Netherlands gambling industry, the Dutch Government’s counterargument is that having Holland Casino in control helps prevent gambling addiction and money laundering. Attempts by other casino companies to challenge Holland Company’s stronghold have not succeeded. For example, the French firm Compagnie Financiere Regionale tried to build a casino in Holland in 2007, but the Dutch courts put a stop to it.
As online gambling began to spread rapidly all over the world in the 21st century, the Netherlands Government was strongly opposed to having any form of it in its own country. Prior to 2005, foreign-based companies were warned not to accept Dutch residents as customers. Then in 2005, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that for an online operator to do so was unlawful.
Betfair and Ladbrokes, both of which are major online casino operators, have brought the matter to the courts on the grounds that the Netherlands restrictions are inconsistent with EU laws. The Dutch court deferred the decision making to the European Court of Justice, but that court’s official response was that the Dutch court could indeed ban online gambling if the intent is to curtail crime and gambling addiction. In February, 2012, a new ruling by the Netherlands Supreme Court upheld the online gambling ban.
Accordingly, at the beginning of 2013, the Netherlands Gaming Authority drafted new legislation to permit online gambling in the Netherlands, with an anticipated launch date of 1/1/15. Approved operators were to be given 5-year licenses to run a full complement of games. The legislation was submitted to Parliament in May, 2013 and passed in February, 2014, overturning a 50-year-old law barring foreign companies from entering the Dutch gambling market
Gambling in the Netherlands Today
Even though the KSA has attempted to block gambling apps that target Dutch players has failed, it is something that makes operators a little trepidatious when attempting to expand out their operations. There is still a push currently to make online gambling completely legal and in keeping with its EU neighbors. 2017 will be a pivotal year.
Licensed operators will be taxed at the rate of 20%, as compared to the 29% rate that state-run Holland casino and gambling arcade owners currently pay. Meanwhile, the Netherlands is currently ranked as the 17th largest iGaming market in the EU, with 700,000 online players and gross gambling revenue (GGR) between EUR 130 AND 250 million. Gaming industry insiders are optimistic that, with the legalization of online gambling, these figures will increase significantly and that the Dutch online gambling market will become highly competitive.
Meanwhile, now financially strapped Holland Casino still operates 13 casinos, spread out in the country’s major cities and tourist spots, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam. These properties lack the glitz and glamour of the fancy Las Vegas strip resorts but continue to maintain a steady flow of visitors to their casinos which are predominantly located in or around Amsterdam. Even though there has been a steep imposition of taxes this is not curtailing the enthusiastic gamblers located in the Netherlands.
One of the reasons for Holland Casino’s dire financial straits (EUR 60 million in debt) is the increased competition from online gambling companies. In an effort to cut costs, Holland Casino has drastically cut back on staff. Due to its serious financial problems, Holland Casino has been placed under direct supervision.
As for poker, the game has not become as big in the Netherlands as in some European countries. However, over the past few years, the number of Dutch poker players has increased significantly. Until the new online gambling laws take effect, poker can be played legally only in land-based casinos, but more than 200,000 determined people are still managing to find foreign sites that will take their action. Once online poker and other forms of gambling are legal in the Netherlands, the Government projects at least EUR 10 million yearly in tax revenue from online gambling.
Problem Gambling in the Netherlands
According to a report from the Netherlands Ministry of Justice, Dutch citizens’ participation in online gambling (though illegal) has continued to climb. But at the same time, participation in all other forms of gambling has declined.
In addition, there is no evidence of any increase in the number of problem gamblers in 2017. The reported incidence of gambling in the country in 2011 was an estimated 8.7 million recreational gamblers, of whom some 92,000 fell into the ‘high risk” category and some 20,000 could be considered “problematic players.” The lack of any evidence of the problem worsening is in marked contrast to the findings for other countries such as Italy, where the number of people with a serious gambling problem has risen dramatically.
Treatment for problem gambling is covered by health insurance in the same manner in which treatment for substance abuse is covered. However, at this time, only a small proportion of Dutch problem gamblers are receiving such help.
Online gambling was officially legalized in January, 2015 but not completely wide open and in many ways is open to interpretation. Thus far there have been no online casino licenses issued in the Netherlands. Research has shown that even with increase in online gambling, it has not contributed to an increase in gambling addictions.