€3.5m in Fines Issued by the KSA in 2019
Over the course of last year, the Dutch regulatory body Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) imposed fines totaling a combined €3.5m, which is a 105.8% increase on 2018. The KSA issued a total of ten fines over last year which were levied against some of the largest operators in the country.
These fines were issued to 1xBet in February, Casuomo Services and Onisac in April, Simbat and Spinity in June, Trannel International and ElectraWorks in August, The Stars Group in September and Royal Panda and LeoVegas in October. These ten fines are an increase on the number of seven that were issued in 2018.
“There are several reasons for the doubling of the amount collected. For example, the basic fine has been increased, a recidivist has been included and more large providers have been fined than before.”– René Jansen, Chairman, KSA
René Jansen, the chairman of the KSA stated that the higher number of fines was a result of the stricter enforcement rules and higher penalties recently imposed. These rules have been enforced to prevent operators from targeting Dutch consumers with online gambling offers in the lead-up to the opening of the Dutch regulated market, which is due to come into effect as of the 1st of June 2021.
“The online gaming offer is huge. Enforcement choices must be made.” Jansen said. “In mid-2017, while awaiting the legalization of online gambling, the KSA tightened the criteria it uses to select online providers for enforcement measures. These criteria are all aimed at protecting Dutch consumers against illegal online offers. Parties that use the Dutch language, Dutch symbols, and Dutch payment methods, for example, will have to deal with the KSA.”
Jansen also added that whilst it is not possible to guarantee that every fine will be paid, those operators that do not pay up will not be eligible for licenses when the market opens.
“We cannot yet say whether the fines imposed in 2019 will all be paid because there are still time limits. We do see, however, that more and more people do pay,” Jansen said. “That is, we think because the Remote Gambling Act has been adopted by the Senate. Probably from 1 January 2021 online gambling licenses can be applied for. If a fine has not been paid, we consider a party to be unreliable. And by definition, non-reliable means no license.”
Publication of Operators Refusing to Pay Fines
In November of 2019, the Dutch regulator announced that it was to begin publicizing operators that had refused to pay fines levied against them by the KSA. The authority stated that the purpose of this was to inform consumers of unlicensed and illegal websites and to help them identify them.
The process that the KSA undergoes when a fine is not paid by an operator was previously not known to the public. The collection procedure is now published on the KSA’s website, however, alongside the name of the operator in question.
Operators are given an opportunity to explain the lack of payment of the fine. For operators that do pay the fine at a later date or that make a payment arrangement, the payment refusal is removed from the KSA’s website.
“Some of the providers assume their responsibility for the penalty imposed by paying the fine, some providers try to escape their punishment,” the KSA said. “If the provider refuses to pay, the KSA sees a strong indication that that provider is unreliable.”
The Future of the Dutch Gambling Market
The regulated online gaming market in the Netherlands is due to open on the 1st of June 2021</strong. Originally, it was thought that the market would open on the 1st of January, but this was pushed back due to the implementation periods for secondary regulations involved in the process.
The KSA will draw up licensing conditions in the run-up to the opening of the new regulated market. It has been announced that new licenses will only be made available to operators that have had no activity in the Netherlands in the two years before the introduction of the new laws. This is because currently, all forms of online gambling are illegal in the country.
It would also appear from Jansen’s statement that operators that have refused to pay fines will also be denied licenses to operate in the new market when the time arises.
The KSA also withdrew operating licenses from 41 businesses that operated slot machines in 2019. The regulator said that most of the withdrawn licenses were due to non-payment of fees or for the failure of reliability tests.
Jansen has stated that the fight against illegal online gambling offerings will continue throughout 2020.
“We will continue to [punish illegal gambling operators] long as online offerings are illegal,” Jansen said. “Earlier this month we announced that we will be adding age verification as a criterion from January 1, 2020. Illegal providers of online gambling who do not visibly verify the age of participants before the registration process is completed will be dealt with as a priority. Preventing minors from taking part in gambling is an important priority of the KSA.”