On Friday, the written questions regarding the remote gaming bill, which were submitted to the government on October 25 by the Senate Committee for Security and Justice, were finally published.
What do these questions tell us?
Will the bill pass?
Before discussing the submitted questions themselves, let us take a brief look at the legislative process that remains before the remote gaming bill can be enacted.
In the Netherlands, the Senate does not have the right to amend legislation. It can either pass or reject bills that are submitted to it.
In very rare instances, however, the Senate may decide to hold off voting on a bill until a version that has been revised according to its wishes has first passed the Lower House. Although always a (remote) possibility, there is really no reason to expect this to happen.
In other words, the bill will either pass or be defeated.
As the parties that voted in favor of the bill in the Lower House, hold a clear majority (44 out of 75 seats) in the Senate, it is overwhelmingly likely that the bill will pass.
Still, there is always a small chance that the Senate fraction of one of the opposition parties that voted in favor of the bill in the Lower House, will vote against the bill in the Upper Chamber.
Apart from the government coalition parties (VVD and PvdA), the Senate majority in favor of the bill is dependent on both the fractions of D66 (10 seats) and PVV (9 seats). As the fraction of PVV hardly provided any questions, the only fraction that, realistically speaking, could still throw a wrench into the proceedings is D66. There is, however, no indication whatsoever that such a surprise is actually in the works.
Do these questions even matter?
As it appears almost a foregone conclusion that the remote gaming bill will pass – as long as there will be a vote in the Senate before the parliamentary elections of March 2017 – one would be justified in wondering whether these questions (and subsequent answers) even matter. Perhaps surprisingly, they do.
First of all, they are simply part of the legislative procedure: a hurdle to be taken before a plenary debate and vote in the Senate can take place.
More importantly, however, the responses provided by (in this case) the State Secretary to questions submitted by members of the Senate help determine the interpretation an act is to be given by the courts and other legal bodies.
More directly, the State Secretary’s responses will help set the limits within which the secondary legislation is to fit.
It should however be noted that as the Senate does not have the right to amend legislation, the State Secretary’s answers will only have to satisfy those fractions that intend to vote in favor of the bill, rendering the queries of opposing fractions largely irrelevant.
Having said all this, below we will discuss some of the questions that, depending on the answers that are eventually given, could have an impact on the secondary legislation.
Prevention measures and land-based gaming
Members of the VVD Senate fraction asked the State Secretary whether the government intends that all prevention measures (to combat problem gambling) that were developed for online operators will be deemed applicable to land-based operators as well.
Although an amendment proposed by MP Jeroen van Wijngaarden (VVD) to loosen certain prevention-related obligations for land-based operators was formally rejected by the Lower House, the answer of the State Secretary to this particular question might – to a limited extent – make up for that.
Likewise, members of the PvdA Senate fraction asked whether all market verticals (sports betting, poker, casino games, lotteries, and land-based slot machines) would have to fulfill the exact same obligations with regard to CRUKS (the most far-reaching prevention measure).
Members of the PvdA Senate fraction also asked the government to provide a complete overview of all advertising restrictions for both land-based and online operators.
Lotteries and good causes
Members of D66 expressed particular concern with regard to the possibility that online gaming would lessen the attractiveness of lotteries; and thus threaten the funding of various good causes, charities, and sports.
The D66 fraction therefore asked the State Secretary to list the available policy remedies were this situation to occur.
Additionally, members of the D66 Senate fraction asked whether the continued exclusion of online lotteries could be reconciled with EU regulations that mandate coherent and consistent market policies.
We have collected the reactions of various industry insiders to this latest list of questions in a separate article that we will update as more responses become available. Check out what your fellow professionals have to say.
The State Secretary is expected to respond within four weeks. We will keep you posted!