Kansspelautoriteit’s Henk Kessler confident of Dutch Gambling Act gaining approval

Speaking at last week’s ‘ESSA Sports Betting Integrity Conference’, the Vice Chairman of The Netherlands Gaming Authority (Kansspelautoriteit) Henk Kessler indicated that the battle to enforce a Gambling Act in his country could be nearing a conclusion.

A new Dutch Gambling Act has been in debate since 2014 when the government submitted its initial mandate to the European Union.

Following a number of reviews and rewrites, 2016 would be earmarked by Dutch stakeholders as the year of the Act’s implementation, however, tax disputes between land-based and digital operators would stall progress on the matter, with ministers failing to secure the Act before the Parliamentary recess for the 2017 Netherlands General Election.

A multi-party coalition led by the VVD (Conservative Liberals) in partnership with D66 (progressives) and Conservative Parties’ The Christian Union and CDA will now lead on the matter, as a number of international operators eye potential entry into a regulated Dutch market.

Addressing the ESSA audience, Kessler detailed how the act undertook a great deal of scrutiny in the House of Commons and then the Senate, where “they asked all the expected questions about all the typical subjects, including match-fixing.”

Kessler went on to voice his post-election concerns about how the influence of the Christian Union within the new government would mean the act would be delayed further than it already had been, due to the election.

Nevertheless, Kessler remains positive that the Gambling Act will reach its destination: “The new coalition government reached an agreement to continue the bill, this means the new time frame is probably by the end of this year, the act will be dealt with by the Senate, then some legislation has to be presented to both houses, but that shouldn’t be a problem, this will mean that the new online gambling laws could be enforced in January 2019.”

Should the Gambling Act come into legislation in January, it will be followed by an expected six month period of licensing and regulations, before Dutch residents can legally gamble online in July of 2019.

The legislation would put an end to a prolonged period of disputes, between operators and regulatory bodies in The Netherlands over the country’s restrictive gambling market. The most notable dispute came when Betsson pleaded with the European Commission to reprimand the regulatory body, the Kansspelautoriteit over its aggressive approach towards online gambling operators.

Furthermore, the future for online operators remains uncertain as it hasn’t been ruled out that in spite of passing the Gambling Act, the Dutch coalition will insist that online gambling operators maintain some kind of physical presence in the country.