Government to modernise gambling policy

The cabinet has approved a plan by Fred Teeven, State Secretary for Security and Justice, to modernise policy on gambling. It has agreed to submit a Remote Betting and Gaming Bill to the House of Representatives, along with its broad view of the future of the lottery and casino markets.

Gambling policy will be modernised in 3 areas. First, online gambling will be regulated from 2015 so that gamblers can play safely and responsibly with supervised providers. Second, the lottery and casino markets will be reformed: Holland Casino will be privatised in 2017, and lottery providers will be given more scope to innovate. And third, more of the profits will go to charities, which already receive more than € 580 million annually from lotteries. Society, too, therefore has a strong interest in an effective lottery system.

The government has chosen a system whereby the objectives of gambling policy (to prevent gambling addiction, protect consumers, and combat fraud and other crime) will no longer be pursued by restricting the supply of gambling opportunities, but by tightening the requirements for providers' licences and strengthening enforcement by the Gaming Authority. These reforms mark a new chapter in the modernisation of gambling policy, which began with the Gaming Authority's establishment in 2012.

Online gambling

From 2015, the Netherlands, like many other EU member states, will permit the issue of licences to providers of online games of chance like poker, casino games, and sports betting.

The current Betting and Gaming Act is almost 50 years old and in need of modernisation. It currently prohibits the provision of games of chance without a licence. It's not possible to obtain a licence for providing online games of chance. Gamblers therefore become dependent on illegal providers, who cannot be adequately supervised. The Remote Betting and Gaming Bill aims to regulate online gambling, which already attracts hundreds of thousands of Dutch people, unprotected and unsupervised. The Bill creates the basis for a licensing system that from 2015 will enable Dutch people to gamble online safely and responsibly. It will impose strict requirements on online gambling providers, including measures to better protect players against gambling addiction. Of their gross turnover, licensed providers in the Netherlands will pay 20% in tax on games of chance, 0.5% as a contribution to the Gambling Addiction Fund, and 1.5% as a contribution to the Gaming Authority.

This will make it easier to identify problem gamblers and offer them assistance. As to high-risk games, whether online or offline, the Authority will create a central registry that will temporarily exclude problem gamblers from them. Online gambling providers will also have to contribute to a fund for the prevention of gambling addiction. In addition, the Bill expands the enforcement powers of the Gaming Authority.

Lotteries

The lottery system is of great social value. The government is therefore keen to provide scope to new initiatives with a social purpose starting in 2017, imposing strict requirements to ensure that this purpose is served. The licences that expire at the end of 2014 will be provisionally extended. To provide more scope for innovation, the lotteries that currently transfer 50% of their turnover to charities will in future have to transfer only 40%. The lotteries say that the amounts transferred will not fall during the next few years. The Staatsloterij (National Lottery) and lottery provider De Lotto are currently examining whether they can collaborate in the future, a move welcomed by Fred Teeven (State Secretary for Security and Justice) and Eric Wiebes (State Secretary for Finance).

Casinos

Holland Casino is currently the only legal provider of casino gambling in the Netherlands, and the State of the Netherlands its sole shareholder. Since state ownership and restricting the number of casino providers are unnecessary for achieving the objectives of gambling policy, Holland Casino will be privatised in 2017 and new casino providers will be permitted. For this purpose, Holland Casino, with its 14 establishments, will be split up and sold. 10 of its establishments will be sold together under the name 'Holland Casino', and the other 4 will be sold separately to new providers. In addition, 2 licences will be granted for new casinos, as a result of which, in 2017, the Netherlands may have a total of 16 casinos.

The licences will be spread across 5 regions in order to avoid concentrations of casinos in some parts of the country and illegal casinos in others. All the new casino providers must pursue prevention policies that are at least as rigorous as that of Holland Casino. The government aims to submit a bill to regulate the new casino system for public consultation before the end of 2014.