Dutch Regulator Hits Bet-at-home with €410k Gambling Violation PenaltyJuly 11, 2018 11:54 am
Bet-at-home, a German online gambling and sports betting company, has been hit with a €410k ($480,212) fine by the Netherlands Gaming Authority (KSA) for targeting the country’s citizens without holding a valid local license. The regulator made its announcement on Tuesday, with the fine handed down only just short of the record €480k slapped on the firms behind Redslots.com in 2015 for promoting the casino on Dutch-language sites, and tempting Dutch customers by offering signup bonuses.
Founded in 1999, Bet-at-home is a public listed company on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange that currently has a market capitalization of €473.19 million. The company employs more than 300 people, and last year generated €145.4 million in revenue.
Variety of Offenses
The Netherlands gaming regulatory body, known as Kansspelautoreit, cited a number of different offenses that Bet-at-home had committed. These include promoting its gambling products in the Dutch language, using the Dutch flag in its marketing campaign, and permitting its website to be accessed via Dutch IP addresses.
This is not the first time that Bet-at-home has appeared on the regulator’s radar, though, as KSA says that it had previously raised similar issues with the operator in 2012 and again in 2014. Its warnings seem to have fallen upon deaf ears, and in May 2017 it was brought to the attention of KSA that Bet-at-home adverts were being shown on a television channel targeting Netherlands residents.
The regulator subsequently launched a new investigation into Bet-at-home’s activities in October 2017, which then revealed a whole litany of offenses contrary to the country’s rules against unauthorized gambling sites offering their products to Dutch gamblers.
Posing as potential customers, KSA agents found little difficulty opening new Bet-at-home accounts from Dutch IP addresses, and were even able to deposit money into their accounts via the Dutch payment service provider iDeal, whose payment system was recommended on bet-at-home.com.
Strict Gambling Prohibitions
In December 2016, KSA announced that it would be taking a zero tolerance approach to any unauthorized gambling operator attempting to serve the Dutch market without its explicit permission. Prior to the policy change, KSA had merely issued warnings to those companies flaunting the law, but as part of its new approach the regulator said that it would subsequently be handing out stiff penalties to any transgressors, despite the difficulty of collecting fines from firms based outside of the Netherlands.
In May 2017, KSA introduced its stringent new prohibitions, which included imposing fines on gambling operators who did not geo-block Dutch gamblers, and instead used iconic Dutch imagery and payment processors “wholly or largely used” by Dutch consumers to encourage gamblers to access and play on their sites.
Dutch iGambling Liberalization
KSA may not have the power to enforce collection of its fines on operators based outside the Netherlands, but recent news that plans are afoot to finally liberalize the country’s internet gambling market may motivate some companies to comply with the regulator’s demands. After all, those failing to honor any outstanding obligations are likely to find themselves excluded from receiving a license from KSA, or participating in a regulated Dutch gambling market.
Two years ago, the Netherlands introduced its Remote Gaming Bill, but while the lower house approved the piece of legislation, it has remained stuck in the Senate ever since. Last month, however, Dutch Senate members indicated that progress had been made on an important issue contained within the bill, namely the requirement that non-EU operators seeking to be licensed in the Netherlands’ should set up a physical office in the country.
Furthermore, all gambling firms obtaining Dutch online licenses, even those already based in the EU, will be required to employ a local “representative in the field of addiction prevention,”and allocate 0.25% of their revenues towards problem gambling programs. As Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker explains:
“Large distance between permit holders and the Dutch health care system makes effective cooperation difficult. This cooperation is crucial to protect players effectively and preventively – directly within the game range.”