William Hill Hit With €300k Dutch Fine

William Hill Logo

United Kingdom-based bookmaker William Hill was fined €300,000 (approximately $341,500) according to a statement released on Friday, Dec. 14 by the Dutch Gaming Authority, also known as the KSA (Kansspelautoriteit). This penalty was levied on the firm for accepting customers in the Netherlands on its internet gaming platforms without being properly licensed.

KSA’s Strategy

There are no entities currently licensed to conduct real money online gambling with Dutch citizens. Nevertheless, flouting of the law is commonplace. In order to prioritize its enforcement actions, the KSA tends to go after those operators that it feels are making specific attempts to attract customers from the Netherlands.

Websites that are offered in the Dutch language and that feature Dutch iconography, like windmills or the flag of the Netherlands, are often targets. So too are businesses that transact with Netherlands-focused payment processors and that offer customer support in Dutch.

Particulars of the William Hill Case

William Hill was found to have engaged in several of these frowned-upon practices. It freely allowed Dutch residents onto its website rather than endeavoring to block Dutch IPs. It also permitted people from the Netherlands to access two of its mobile apps. William Hill supported the iDEAL payment system, which is only available to those with bank accounts registered in the Netherlands. Additionally, the company’s website was available in the Dutch language.
The services that Dutch consumers were able to take advantage of included betting on sports, casino gaming, and playing online poker. Moreover, they were able to communicate with support staff in the Dutch language.

Statements From Both Parties

René Jansen, chairman of the KSA, said that the fine was part of the organization’s efforts to protect consumers. “A player who gambles with an illegal provider does without any protection; there is no supervision so it is impossible to ensure these companies are conducting business fairly, and that is why the KSA acts against illegal providers,” he explained.

William Hill was less than thrilled with the announcement of the fine. The bookie says that it “will definitely be appealing against the fine.” The KSA has a mixed record in having its judgments upheld in court. For example, near the beginning of 2018, it lost a case where it tried to block a payment processor from handling gambling transactions. On the other hand, the KSA prevailed in September 2017 in a decision against Betsson. It’s therefore possible that William Hill’s appeal could be decided either way.

KSA Very Active Lately

In the past year or so, the KSA has really stepped up its fight against unlicensed operators. In July, it fined Bet-at-home €410,000 (about $466,750), and in September, the KSA won an appeal against online casino firms Mansion and Co-gaming, which had to pay €150,000 ($170,750) and €180,000 ($205,000) respectively. Also in September, MRG (Formerly Mr Green) was fined €312,500 ($355,750), and Betsson was hit to the tune of €300,000 ($341,500). In November, CyberRock Entertainment and its subsidiary Honeydew Trading were ordered to hand over €350,000 ($398,500).

It’s possible that this stronger enforcement is occurring for behind-the-scenes reasons that we have no way of knowing about. It’s more likely, however, that the KSA’s recent activity is explained by the desire to clean up the online gambling environment in preparation for legalizing and licensing the pastime.

New Online Gambling Legislation Forthcoming

Much ink has been spilled lately about a law wending its way through the Dutch parliamentary process. The Remote Gaming Bill would allow outside gambling enterprises to obtain licenses to transact legally in the Dutch online market, and they would have to pay tax on their revenue amounting to 29%.

According to reports, this piece of legislation is expected to pass any day now. Nevertheless, the bill has been in the works for many years now. It cleared the lower house of the Dutch parliament back in 2016, but it encountered resistance in the Senate where it now languishes. There have been pronouncements that it would be approved shortly almost continuously throughout this time, but new stumbling blocks always seemed to appear.

Bad Actor Clause to Be Included

Beyond just the monetary penalties issued, there’s another reason why gambling firms might wish to steer clear of the Dutch internet gambling scene at least for a while. Language in a draft version of the Remote Gaming Bill stipulates that providers who have been found to be operating in violation of the law will be ineligible to receive licenses.

It was initially believed that this text mandated a permanent ban on these operators from ever being licensed in the country. However, remarks made by Dutch Justice and Security Minister Sander Dekker in September imply that the consensus on this point has shifted to prefer blocking bad actors only for a limited duration of time. There have not yet been any indications as to how long this exclusionary period will be.

William Hill’s appeal of the KSA’s decision is likely motivated by a wish to not pay the fine and also to keep its name clear in preparation for an approved entry into the Dutch i-gaming economy. However, the KSA will be the entity charged with maintaining the blacklist, and so it might very well put William Hill in the doghouse for its misdeeds even if the courts eventually rule in the bookmaker’s favor.