On 19 February 2019, the new Dutch Remote Games Act was adopted by the Dutch parliament. This law enables online gambling operators to legally operate in the Netherlands after having acquired a licence. Many key elements of the new legislation are now worked out in greater detail through secondary regulations (i.e. the Remote Gambling Decree (RGD) and the Regulations on Remote Gambling (RRG). These draft secondary gambling regulations have been published, as part of a public consultation, in respectively September 2018 and July 2019. This article summarises the most important provisions of these secondary gambling regulations.
Duty of care requirements for operators
One of the main goals of the Dutch gambling policy is to prevent gambling addiction and therefore the new legislation provides a lot of rules in this respect. Licence holders are obliged to identify and verify their players by registration and to register and analyse the playing behaviour of gamblers with the aim of early identification of a possible gambling addiction. In addition, players have to be informed about the risks of gambling before and during games and licence holders have to keep players informed of the playing limits set by them, for example by means of pop-ups. Players should also have the possibility to do a self-test that tests gambling addiction and licence holders that have the impression that a player has an addiction should hold a personal interview with the player. As an ultimate remedy, the licence holder can decide to register the player in the Dutch central register for exclusion of games of chance, which will prevent the player (temporarily) from future participation in games of chance. Employees of licence holders will be obliged to follow training with regard to gambling addiction prevention.
Requirements with regard to providing information and reporting
In light of consumer protection, licence holders are obliged to provide information about the offered games to players such as with respect to the rules of the game, chances of winning and the way in which winners are determined. Players should also be able to file complaints and have contact with a customer service which should be available 24 hours per day electronically and 12 hours per day by phone. Licence holders should also make available (e.g. on their website) information about their licence, their policy with respect to gambling prevention, the general terms and conditions and the costs of participating in the offered games.
The licence holder should regularly report to the Dutch Gaming Authority (DGA) how the execution of its integrity policy is going as well as how it is complying with the legal requirements regarding player registration, payment transactions and consumer protection. Furthermore, operators are obliged to set-up a control database that registers the identity of players and changes in player profiles, player interventions and payment transactions as well as total bets and wins per game. Licence holders must report annually to the DGA about their marketing activities.
Online sports betting, match fixing and advertising
Detailed rules are provided in relation to sports betting and integrity. In order to prevent match fixing, no betting is allowed at moments which are easily manipulated within the game, such as betting on the outcome of separate games and sets in tennis and betting on "negative" game elements (e.g. yellow and red cards in football and injuries). Licence holders are also obliged to work together with sport organisers and exchange information in relation to sports events and bets, while they should also analyse bets and look for suspicious bets.
Licence holders are allowed to advertise their services. However, advertisements may not be misleading or stimulate immoderate betting and may not be focused on vulnerable people such as minors, young adults between the ages of 18-24 and problem gamblers. This, amongst others, means that licence holders may not advertise with role models that are popular among minors (e.g. "influencers" and "vloggers"). The rules furthermore allow shirt sponsorship, sponsorship of sports articles and of individual athletes, although it is forbidden to use individual athletes for advertising purposes.
Licence procedure and Cooling-Off period
Licences will be granted by the DGA and the fee for applying for a licence will be EUR 45,000. A licence will only be granted to operators that are considered "reliable". In determining whether an operator is liable, the DGA will take into account key personnel, ultimate beneficial owners and previous violations of the law in the Netherlands and abroad. In addition to the RGD and RRG, the DGA recently published its draft policy rules on the "Cooling-Off Period". These policy rules stipulate that operators that apply for a licence will only be considered "reliable" if they have not actively targeted the Dutch market during two years prior to their application. It is stipulated that the Dutch market is considered actively targeted if an operator offers its services: (i) through a website with a .nl extension; (ii) in the Dutch language (either before or after the user logs on); (iii) with typically Dutch payment methods (e.g. iDEAL); (iv) while advertising in print media or during broadcasts aimed at the Dutch market; (v) through a website with a domain name that combines typically Dutch elements with gambling-related terms; or (vi) through a website containing expressions, symbols, or images that demonstrate a focus on the Dutch market. The policy rules lapse on 1 July 2021 and will therefore no longer apply to licence applications submitted after that date. The published policy rules are still a draft which means they still need to be adopted.
As mentioned earlier, these rules are still in the consultation phase. The definitive text of the RGD and RRG will likely be adjusted based on the comments and input received. We will keep you informed.