iGaming in Holland to be Delayed Further

Government ministers in the Netherlands have admitted that the new regulated market for iGaming in the country will likely face further delays due to COVID-19. The online gambling market was initially due to launch on the 1st of January 2021. This was pushed back until July, however, and the recent statement from the government suggests it may be delayed for several more months.

Stacks of chips and dice on top of a laptop.

The regulation of online gambling in the Netherlands has been an area of contention for some time and has already been substantially delayed. The coronavirus pandemic in Europe will likely cause this to be pushed back even further, with estimates of several months being floated by ministers. ©AidanHowe/Pixabay

The recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 in Europe, and the subsequent lockdown measures implemented across the continent to limit its spread have impacted many aspects of public life and policymaking. One of the latest areas that has been impacted is the launch of the regulated iGaming market in Holland.

The Minister for Legal Protection in the Netherlands, Sander Dekker, recently released a statement regarding the launch. This statement was made in response to a politician who put forward a motion in the parliament aiming to postpone the implementation of the legislation. The estimates of Dekker suggest a delay of several months.

The member of the Dutch parliament who initially pushed for the postponement is the member of the Socialist Party, Michael van Nipsen. Many motions have been filed that relate to the launch of the online gambling market, and each received enough initial support to be debated and voted upon in the House of Representatives.

The Minister of Legal Protection pointed out the necessity to work quickly in preparing the market for launch. The viral outbreak has led to the closure of all physical gambling venues like casinos, and as a result, is expected to cause a large shift towards the unlicensed online market.

If the online gambling market was regulated then it would be fairly easy for the government to react accordingly. The current state of affairs, however, means that there is little that can be done by the regulator (KSA) in the country to counteract the illegal offerings of online operators.

The counter-argument for rushing the iGaming market is that the implementation of the regulations should be done properly, and player protection schemes like self-exclusion registers should be effectively implemented. This fact was caused the minister to predict a small delay for the launch of the market.

Van Nipsen’s Motions

The first motion that was submitted by van Nipsen and which will now be voted upon after debate related to the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the preparations that have been made by the government and the country’s gambling regulator.

These two parties have been working to prepare the iGaming market in time for the revised deadline of the 21st of July 2021. The coronavirus pandemic has, according to van Nipsen, given cause for an extension of these preparations to be considered.

Nipsen also pointed out that a postponement of the implementation of the regulated market would give the players in the industry an opportunity to get their affairs in order before the market opens. This would enable those in the industry to overcome some of the financial impact of the lockdown before the market is opened.

Pushing this back would also allow the country’s regulator to better prepare the infrastructure needed for a regulated market, as well as prepare the self-exclusion register that is due to be brought upon the launch of the market.

The second motion that the member of parliament put forward is designed to bring in a reflection period. This period will allow the country’s regulator and other groups that aim to reduce gambling problems to call for a postponement to the market’s launch should they think it necessary and they give three months’ notice before doing so.

Another motion that was suggested by van Nipsen was specifically about the self-exclusion system that is due to be implemented on the launch of the market (otherwise known as Cruks).

The minister has suggested that the online gambling market should not be launched until this system is stable and secure. He went on to define the stability and security of the system as one that protects the privacy of consumers and processes their data to a minimal degree.

Van Nipsen also pointed out that before the market is opened a fund should be created to help prevent problematic gambling. This fund could be used by the KSA to better enforce the regulations that prevent unlicensed gambling in the country before the iGaming market is fully launched.

Dekker responded to this motion saying that it would not be a problem if such a motion passed in the House of Representatives. This is because the minister has very few concerns that the self-exclusion register will not be ready in time for the launch of the market.

Currently, a cooling-off period is also in place which prevents operators that have historically offered online services to Dutch consumers from doing so in the build-up to the launch of the market. Van Nipsen has requested in a further motion that this period should also be extended should the opening of the market be delayed.

Further Motions

Several motions related to the regulated iGaming market in Holland were also tabled. One such motion aims to reduce the licensing period that has been agreed from five years down to three. This motion was suggested by Madeleine van Tooernburg from the Christian Democratic Appeal.

Dekker provided a swift rebuttal of this motion. If the licensing period were to be reduced, then the operators would have to be granted new licenses before the regulator could perform adequate investigations into the suitability of operators. This would, according to Dekker, leave Dutch consumers in a more precarious position as a result.

Van Tooernburg is in staunch opposition to the regulated market on the whole but has stated that if it is to be implemented, then she will fight to improve the legislation. In another motion, the minister asked for every licensed operator in the Netherlands to be required to have a representative situated in the country.

This representative would be required to report to the House of Representatives on a biannual basis to discuss how they are promoting safe gambling practices to their customers.

Dekker reacted positively to this motion, saying that he would be happy to support it but added that he would not be in favor of overly strict reporting requirements.

A third motion was put forward by van Toorenburg in which she asked the government to table a motion in the European Parliament that would aim for an international effort to stop illegal gambling in the EU.

These motions are by no means representative of the concerns of politicians about the implementation of a regulated online gambling market in Holland, or any delays to the launch. The impact of COVID-19 remains to be seen, but parliamentarians are keen to ensure that the market remains fairly and effectively regulated despite the pandemic.

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