State Secretary Fred Teeven of Security and Justice has announced that there are plans to liberalize the Dutch market for games of chance. Teeven wants to modernize the games of chance policy and to fight gambling addiction, fraud and crime more effectively by widening and expanding the legal offer of games of chance.
The restrictive Dutch games of chance policy, which gives a limited number of operators like Holland Casino and De Lotto a permanent monopoly based on a government license, has been severely criticized in the past years by the European Commission and foreign (online) providers of games of chance, among others. With its Betfair and Ladbrokes rulings of last year, the European Court of Justice still backed up the then Minister of Justice Hirsch Ballin to maintain this policy.
However, the current government has chosen to steer a different course, the omens of which could already be found in the coalition agreement of the current government. This coalition agreement contains a paragraph forecasting extra income from the granting of licenses for online games of chance. At present the offering of games of chance through the Internet is still illegal in the Netherlands Teeven would like to put an end to this ban – under specific strict conditions – and to introduce an open license system for gambling sites, to be subjected to ‘good and sound control.’ The intended legalization of online games of chance is not limited to poker, as the Jansen committee had advised the government at the end of 2009, but also includes other games such as casino games, sports bets and bingos. Besides, poker will not only be liberalized in the online environment, but also in physical locations, such as pubs and sports canteens.
Besides unlocking the online games of chance market, Teeven wants to strengthen market forces in the ‘regular’ games of chance market by admitting new providers on the market of lotteries, sports sweepstakes, horse races and casinos.
The Code of Conduct for Promotional Games of Chance should also be clarified “in some respects”, in any case as far as the communication costs are concerned. Teeven is inclined to introduce a provision in this Code, limiting the actual costs that may be charged to a maximum varying between €0.40 and €0.45. This is especially relevant to texting services, like voting by text message in talent shows.
All in all, a great deal more of legally playing will become possible in the Netherlands. This is in line with existing practices, where participation in online games of chance of foreign providers is still possible, although it is illegal on paper. Incidentally, new providers of games of chance will still have to wait a while: the possible new system will not be in place before 1 January 2015.