On 15 March 2023, the Netherlands Gambling Authority (“NGA“) published its Annual Report 2022 (click here for the annual report). As the NGA also immediately points out in the press release accompanying the publication, 2022 was the first full calendar year of licensed remote gambling in the Netherlands (click here for the press release). In the 47-page document, the NGA looks back at “what went well, and where things can and must improve“. That improvement, by the way, the NGA expects, according to the annual report, mainly from licence holders. This contribution briefly discusses the most striking points from the annual report.
By the end of 2022, 24 licences had been issued for offering remote gambling. The chairman of the NGA indicates that the bar is set high, as a result of which only one in three applications resulted in a licence. The biggest stumbling blocks for applicants are the reliability test and the requirements around the control database. Page 16 of the annual report shows the exact status at the end of 2022:
Indeed, experience with licence applications shows that the NGA will not grant a licence to several applicants because those “applicants who have offered gambling illegally in the past“. It should be noted that, in practice, this has mainly proved to be an obstacle for the larger organisations. Due to the (very) broad scope of the reliability test, it was impossible for some of these (larger) organisations to be able to invoke the leniency exemption used by the NGA (Article 3.8 of the remote gambling policy rules of 19 March 2021), which could be used by applicants who submitted their applications before 1 April 2022. For smaller organisations (including mostly new organisations with no experience with offering remote gambling), this reliability test mostly proved no obstacle.
As far as we can see, the requirements around the control database did not become a reason for the NGA to refuse applications until 2022. Pages 21 and 22 of the annual report show that several licence holders experienced problems with their control database. The NGA seems to have become stricter for applicants during 2022 (relative to the first group of applicants in 2021) regarding control database requirements.
Channelisation rate of 85 percent
The NGA estimates that 85 per cent of online players gamble with locally licensed operators. On page 14 it says: “According to the latest report, in July 2022 there were 1.3 million player accounts of which 563,000 were actually played with. Those figures do not reflect the actual number of unique players because a player can create a player account with multiple operators.” The NGA notes it will publish its next report on this (with more detailed information on the number of players and developments therein) in April 2023.
Enforcement in 2022
The NGA acts against illegal gambling websites that are most frequently visited from the Netherlands. It is noted, on page 6, that in practice “most of the websites go black when we announce that we are going to take action. The threat may often be invisible, but thus proves very effective.” In addition, the NGA targets facilitators such as affiliate websites and payment service providers. In 2022, the NGA imposed a record amount of €29,779,000 in fines (for illegal offerings and licence holders). Page 12 of the annual report shows the exact state of play at the end of 2022 with regard to enforcement against illegal remote gambling:
Page 13 of the annual report provides a summary of actions against facilitators:
Duty of care
The NGA emphasises, on page 10 of the annual report, the importance of the duty of care incumbent on licence holders. It states: “The explicit intention of legalising online gambling is to create a safe environment for people who want to gamble online. An absolute prerequisite for this is that operators take their duty of care seriously. There are signs that this is not always the case. For example, in 2022, the NGA received signals about players who lost large amounts of money in a short period of time.” However, the NGA acknowledges that laws and regulations often do not specifically prescribe how operators should design and implement the duty of care. In the summer of 2022, the NGA launched an investigation into how remote gambling licence holders implement the duty of care surrounding the playing behaviour of their players in practice. This investigation will look at (based on data from licensees’ control databases, files and their policy documents), among other things, the registration and analysis of playing behaviour, the way operators monitor players’ activities and the way they subsequently intervene. The NGA indicates that this investigation will be completed in the first half of 2023. At that time, more will be known about possible enforcement with respect to the duty of care.
Pages 26 and 27 discuss the Central Exclusion Register (“Cruks“). At the end of December 2022, around 30,000 persons were registered in this register (registered persons cannot participate in licensed remote games of chance, in gambling machine halls and Holland Casino). The NGA indicates that the number of Cruks checks (this is carried out when a person tries to access the gambling offer online, at a gambling machine hall or Holland Casino) amounts to an average of almost 32 million per month. During the Football World Cup – mid-November to mid-December – there were almost 40 million checks, and during peaks the register was queried as many as 210 times per second. The NGA recommends that involuntary registration in Cruks (by close relatives and family members) should be made quicker and easier than is possible under current regulations. The NGA also thinks that the period of this involuntary registration should be extended (it is now a maximum of six months).
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