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Online Gambling Changes for Licensed Operators in Netherlands; Belgium Raising Minimum Gambling Age

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In the Netherlands, the Dutch Parliament has approved a mandate that calls on the European country’s government to introduce tough fixed cross-operator deposit limits for the online gambling market along with a more severe regulatory crackdown. The motion to enforce ‘overarching playing limits’ was proposed by ChristenUnie (CU) party leader and member of Parliament (MP) Mirjam Bikker.

Universal Loss Limit

A staunch critic of the current online gambling regulations in the Netherlands, Bikker has reportedly petitioned for a “universal loss limit” spanning all 27 licensed Dutch operators “without the possibility of offering customers an increase.” This measure requires changes to the Remote Gambling Act (KOA) that came into force on April 1, 2021, at which time the long-awaited legal market exploded. The law allowed operators, such as ComeOn Netherlands Casino, to submit applications to the agency for a license to offer internet gambling in the Netherlands.

Unlike past draft proposals announced by the Ministry of Justice & Security, the new consumer protection measure for the Netherlands’ online gambling market which was introduced on February 13, 2024, deposit limits could not be raised following an affordability check.

Financial Risk Checks

Before the vote, the CU’s mandate was rejected by Minister for Legal Protections, Franc Weerwind, who argued that financial risk checks had been incorporated into the imminent and approved amendments. He instead recommended that the House greenlight compulsory financial risk checks for player accounts with more than €350 in spending.

Weerwind, whose job it is to oversee KOA reforms, argued that a loss limit will be introduced by the KOA market, imposing a €150 spend restriction on the gambling accounts of any customer under the age of 24. The House’s approval of CU’s mandate hints at a possible conflict with the Minister’s proposed changes to the KOA Act.

MP Bikker urged Minister Weerwind to “rethink the design of Dutch online gambling protections” and to impose a fixed loss limit on KOA operators by the year’s end.

Stricter Financial Penalties

Michiel van Nispen, who is also a member of the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) of the Netherlands for the Socialist Party (SC), proposed a second motion to impose stricter financial penalties for online gambling violations. Those penalties proposed by Van Nispen include fines of 10 percent of turnover for gambling companies that violate KOA regulations and license revocation for operators who fail to satisfactorily protect players. The mandate was supported by 102 MPs and the mandate was passed.

Van Nispen reportedly said…

The SP wants serious fines and measures against those bad gambling companies. As far as we are concerned, a warning is followed by a fine, and one that really hurts, for example, 10% of turnover. In our opinion, permits should also be revoked in the event of recidivism. Has that ever happened, the withdrawal of a permit? I do not think so. As far as we’re concerned: end of story for the cowboys without morals.”

Online Gambling Advertising Ban

The last of three motions calling on a blanket ban on gambling advertising that was proposed by CDA MP Derk Bosswijk fell short by 6 votes in achieving the required 76-vote majority. And while rejected by the Kamer, Dutch ministers maintain that “overreaching player limits” must be a part of the government’s ongoing amendments to the KOA Act.

Having adopted the motions regarding cross-operator deposit limits and a more intense regulatory crackdown, the stage has been set for the March 7, 2024, scheduled parliamentary debate by the Permanent Committee for Justice and Security on Internet gambling.

According to global data and business intelligence platform Statista, this year, projected revenue in the Netherlands’ online gambling market is estimated to reach US$1.19bn. Furthermore, the market is expected to see a 5.60% (CAGR 2024-2028) annual growth rate, which, by 2028, will lead to a projected market volume of US$1.48bn.

Belgium Raises Gambling Age

In related news, in Belgium, new gambling legislation that will see the minimum gambling age for betting (online and offline) increase from 18 to 21 has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies. The bill will also ban bonuses of any kind. Furthermore, gambling advertising, in principle, will likewise be banned, unless expressly authorized in a separate Royal Decree. Belgium’s National Lottery, however, will be exempt from the ban.

Additionally, online gambling operators in the western European country are now prohibited from offering more than one type of gambling, such as sports betting and casino, via the same website.

The new regulatory framework has unsurprisingly been strongly criticized by the Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO), which warns that in doing so player protection and market channelization will suffer and will see customers turning to unlicensed gambling providers.

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