Unibet blackmails Dutch gov’t by tying cycling sponsorship to lower online tax
On Wednesday, Dutch media reported that the Malta-licensed Unibet is set to take over as the new main sponsor of the Dutch Cycling Federation (KNWU), but only if the government sticks to its original plan of taxing online gambling revenue at a rate of 20%.
Earlier this month, Dutch parliamentarians introduced revised plans for the launch of the country’s new regulated online gambling market. The original plan called for online revenue to be taxed at 20%, but the new plan ups this rate to 29%, similar to the rate demanded of land-based gambling operators.
In announcing the four-year, €7m sponsorship pact, KNWU chairman Marcel Wintels said it was contingent on Unibet receiving a Dutch online license when the new regime takes effect, which isn’t expected until July 2017.
But Unibet believes the proposed 29% tax would eat up any funds allocated for sponsorship deals, so the deal is off if the tax strays from its original 20%. Wintels therefore urged the government to consider “the interests of Dutch sports” when weighing the tax issue.
Officials from state-owned sports betting monopoly De Lotto expressed outrage at Wednesday’s announcement, accusing KNWU of being used by Unibet as a lobbying sock puppet. De Lotto, which has sponsored a number of Dutch national cycling teams, issued a statement urging Dutch sports bodies not to strike deals with “foreign competitors.”
Dutch politicians were similarly unmoved by the KNWU’s appeal. WielerUpdate.nl quoted members of the governing coalition saying there was “no room” for lowering taxes since the Dutch taxpayer would be forced to make up the difference.
Unibet is currently not permitted to serve Dutch punters, as the Kansspelautoriteit gaming regulator ordered all Dutch-facing sites to suspend operations in preparation for the regulated market launch. Operators are also prohibited from advertising, which is why Wednesday’s press conference featured an array of green balls mimicking Unibet’s traditional logo minus the letters spelling out the company name.