Finally, after twenty years the die is cast; on 19 February 2019, the Dutch Senate approved the Remote Gambling Bill (“Bill”) which introduces a licensing system for remote gambling. It is expected that the law will enter into force in mid-2020, after which it will be possible to submit an application for a licence. On the other hand, the legislative proposal for Modernization of the Casinos Regime has been put on ice for the time being.
As in 2006, when an attempt to regulate online games of chance proved unsuccessful, the Senate adopted a critical approach. During the plenary debate of 5 February 2019, Sander Dekker (Minister for Legal Protection), was asked by the Senate to respond to three questions relating to the Bill by letter. Advertising restrictions and the details of the Bouwmeester Motion were important matters in this respect.
Following the letter with Minister Dekker’s answers, the plenary debate continued on 12 February 2019. Six motions were tabled during the debate, four of which were adopted and two were rejected.
GroenLinks, for example, proposed a general advertising ban on online games of chance via the Strik Motion, but could not count on a majority. However, the D. van Dijk Motion, tabled by the SGP, in which the government was asked to consider a ban on advertising for land-based and remote gambling and to map the consequences of this, was adopted.
The fact that remote gambling operators who – without a licence – previously targeted the Dutch market may only apply for a licence after a cooling-off period of two years results from adoption of the Postema Motion, which was put forward by the PvdA. The Gerkens Motion (SP), which would set the aforementioned cooling-off period at a minimum of five years, could not count on the support of most members of the Senate.
The Bikker Motion (SGP) on the request to evaluate the law (three years after coming into force) to check whether sufficient measures have been taken to prevent young people from starting gambling and whether additional measures are needed to prevent young people from becoming problem gamblers was adopted.
Finally, the second motion by the PvdA (Postema Motion) was also adopted, which means that when the law is evaluated, the desirability of additional possibilities for blocking illegal websites will be reviewed.
Result of the vote
In the end, the VVD, D66, PVV, PvdA and GroenLinks parties voted in favour, which means that the Bill was adopted by a majority of 6 (44 senators for and 31 against).
The Bill for Modernization of the Casinos Regime, which relates to the privatisation and sale of Holland Casino, was not put to the vote. In the plenary debate of 12 February, Sander Dekker (Minister for Legal Protection) asked the Senate to postpone the debate on the aforementioned legislative proposal until the end of May.
Although the Bill has been adopted, it will still take some time before the first licences can be granted. This will probably be in first quarter of 2021 at the earliest.
The legislative proposal will first be fleshed out further in secondary legislation. The Ministry of Justice and Security has already consulted on Order in Council (Remote Games of Chance Decree). Further details will be worked out in a Ministerial Regulation that will be published before consultation.
The Netherlands Gambling Authority (NGA) will then use these secondary laws and regulations to further specify the many open standards in policy rules. In this context, the NGA – probably before the summer of 2019 – will open consultation on the application form for a remote gambling licence and, more specifically, will give more clarity to the acclaimed cooling-off period.
In addition, René Janssen, chairman of the NGA board, announced during our Annual Gaming Industry Event that the “Duty of Care Guide” will be opened for consultation in March 2019. This Guide sets out the duty of care for the prevention of gambling addiction, as laid down in Section 4a of the Betting and Gaming Act.
It is expected that the legislative proposal will eventually enter into force on 1 July 2020. From that moment on, the licensing process can be started. Earlier, the NGA announced that it would need at least 4-6 months to process a licence application. This period could however be extended by an additional 6 months.
If you have any questions regarding the above or about the upcoming licensing procedure for online games of chance, please feel free to contact us.
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