Dutch court upholds regulator’s right to fine online gambling sites


dutch-court-online-gambling-finesThe Netherlands’ top court has upheld the right of the local gaming regulator to impose hefty fines against international online gambling operators.

On July 13, the District Court in The Hague ruled that the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) regulatory body was within its rights to impose six-figure fines against two internationally licensed online gambling operators for doing business with Dutch punters without the KSA’s authorization.

The fines in question included a €180k penalty levied against Malta-licensed Co-Gaming Limited (then operating as ComeOn Europe) in 2015, and a combined €150k bill issued to the Gibraltar-licensed Mansion Online Casino Ltd. and ONISAC Ltd. the previous year.

The companies are believed to have already paid the fines but chose to appeal their cases to the District Court. It’s unclear whether either company will attempt a Hail Mary appeal to the Netherlands’ Council of State, the last remaining avenue of appeal in the country’s legal system. Regardless, the KSA issued a statement expressing pleasure that the Court had supported the regulator’s policy, which it claimed was “in the interests of the consumer.”

As the Netherlands has been slow-rolling passage of its new online gambling legislation, the Court found that the activity remains illegal in the country, and therefore acting against online operators serving Dutch punters was in the KSA’s job description. The Court also ruled that the KSA’s actions were compatible with European Union law.

That last point is a matter of contention for many international online operators, including Betsson, which this month submitted a formal request to the European Commission to reopen infringement proceedings against the Netherlands.

The EC launched infringement proceedings against the Netherlands in 2006 but suspended this action after Dutch politicians vowed to modernize its online gambling marketplace. Betsson maintains that reopening these proceedings is warranted due to the Netherlands’ “continued failure to implement an EU compliant legal framework.”

The KSA recently announced a significant expansion of its enforcement actions against international online operators although a ruling last month by the EU’s top court found that Hungary’s restrictive online regulations meant the country lacked the right to impose penalties on online operators licensed to do business in other EU jurisdictions.