The Dutch Minister of Legal Protection, who is responsible for online gambling policy, and the standing Committee on Justice and Security recently discussed the Remote Gambling Decree (Besluit kansspelen op afstand) (the “Decree”) again. During this debate, several motions were submitted and eventually adopted by the Dutch Parliament – which will be further explained below – but especially remarkable is that the Parliament adopted a motion asking the government for an additional consultation to determine whether delaying the opening of the regulated online market is necessary due to impact of COVID-19 on the land-based sector (“Additional Consultation Motion”). The Minister indicated during the debate that he does not rule out the possibility that the entry into force of the Remote Gambling Bill (Wet Kansspelen op afstand) (“Bill”) will be delayed for a couple of months due to impact of COVID-19 on the land-based sector. With the adoption of this motion, the possibility for a delay has now been formalised.
While the Parliament and Minister were debating a possible delay, the Dutch Gambling Authority (Kansspelautoriteit) took an important step for the opening of the online gambling market. It published the technical specifications for connecting to the Dutch Central Exclusion Register (Centraal Register Uitsluiting Kansspelen) (“Cruks”). According to the Dutch Gambling Authority, these technical specifications will enable gambling providers to prepare for the entry into force of the Bill.
This article explains the Additional Consultation Motion, the other motions adopted by the Parliament and the new technical requirements for connecting to Cruks.
The planned entry into force of the Bill was set for 1 January 2021, with the first licences to be issued six months later. Although not officially confirmed yet, it now seems likely that the Dutch market will open a couple of months later. During the last debate on several motions on the implementation of the Decree, the Minister indicated that he did not rule out the possibility of a delay.
During this debate, the submitter of the motion argued that, considering that the preparations for the entry into force of the online gambling market have been somewhat delayed as a result of the COVID-19 measures and the fact that land-based providers were hit hard by COVID-19, it would be a good idea to postpone the opening of the online gambling market so that all stakeholders have sufficient time to overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This would ensure that the Dutch Gambling Authority is ready, the aid- and care structure is in order and Cruks can be implemented properly. The motion calls for the scheduling of an additional consultation between the government and, among others, the Dutch Gambling Authority, the addiction care sector and the land-based sector. Such consultation will make it possible to consider whether any postponement of the market opening is desired before the Bill enters into force.
If the entry into force and/or the opening of the online gambling market is actually delayed, the two-year cooling-off period for providers that have targeted Dutch customers without a licence will be delayed for a commensurate period of time (a motion to this effect has been adopted by the Parliament).
Aside from the Additional Consultation Motion and the motion on the extension of the cooling-off period, the Parliament also adopted six other motions on the implementation of the Decree.
The Parliament agreed to a motion requesting the government to reconsider the recently introduced requirement for land-based games, such as casinos and gambling arcades, to maintain a visitor registration database for all customers.
In addition, it adopted a motion asking the government to ensure that the following conditions are met prior to the introduction of Cruks for an effective and efficient implementation:
- a reliable and stable functioning of Cruks;
- the privacy of the participants being guaranteed with minimum data processing;
- an addiction prevention fund having been introduced at the moment Cruks comes into effect;
- an efficient route to help and care; and
- an optimal enforcement by the Dutch Gaming Authority on unlicensed online offerings.
Other motions that have been adopted by the Parliament include:
- a motion calling on the government to strive for a level playing field for gambling providers when shaping its gambling policy, with due observance of the objectives of gambling policy;
- a motion calling on the government to put the need to tackle providers of unlicensed games of chance on the agenda of all countries within the European Union, to spread the importance of addiction prevention within the European Union and to inform the Dutch Chamber accordingly;
- a motion calling on the government to investigate the consequences for the remittance of state lotteries entering the online market in other European countries, to assess how the different remittance rates of state lotteries and/or lotto games in the Netherlands relate to the remittance rates in other European countries and to inform the Dutch Chamber accordingly; and
- a motion that would shift the future responsibility for developing problem gambling prevention policy from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports.
A motion calling for a reduction in the licence term for online gambling providers from five to three years was rejected.
Technical specifications and connection procedure
As mentioned in one of our previous posts, all potential applicants for an online gambling licence must comply with stringent conditions in order to be eligible. One of those conditions is that providers must be affiliated with Cruks. This register is created to prevent gambling addiction as players can be registered in Cruks – either voluntarily or involuntarily – so that they are precluded from participating in any form of online betting and gambling for a specific period of time. Both online providers as well as land-based providers will be obliged to verify whether their customers are registered with Cruks before letting them participate in any form of online and offline games of chance. If a customer is registered with Cruks, the gambling providers must refuse the customer access.
On 22 June 2020 the Dutch Gambling Authority published the technical specifications for connecting to Cruks, allowing land-based providers to prepare for the entry into force of the Bill. According to the Dutch Gambling Authority, potential applicants for an online gambling licence can also use the technical specifications to prepare for connection but cannot derive any rights from the connection details at this stage. Tests are only being conducted with land-based providers.
It will be possible for land-based providers to test the connection between their business and Cruks from July 2020. In order to do so, the land-based provider must go through the following 3 steps:
- Registration: As a first step, the land-based provider will have to register its company for connection to Cruks by email to the Dutch Gambling Authority at email@example.com. In order to do so, it must attach a document in PDF format showing that its representative has the authority to sign (e.g. a copy of a mandate decision or an extract from the Chamber of Commerce). Consequently, the Dutch Gambling Authority will check whether the land-based provider has a licence to offer games of chance. The Dutch Gambling Authority does this by means of a so-called PKI certificate. If the land-based provider has such a certificate, it will receive a confirmation of the continuance of the connection procedure.
- Installation, activation and authorisation of the certificate: Then, the land-based provider will have to install and activate the PKI certificate on the server connected to Cruks. This requires the provider to issue its PKI certificate, which may only contain public information, in PEM format by email to the Dutch Gambling Authority at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Dutch Gambling Authority expressly warns the land-based provider not to include the private key in its email message as in this case the PKI certificate will be blocked, and the land-based provider will have to request a new one.
- Testing: as soon as registration has taken place, the land-based provider will receive a message from the Dutch Gambling Authority that it can start testing in the test environment. The provider will receive a description of the connection test and the steps it must follow.
The Dutch Gambling Authority indicated that information concerning the formal connection test on Cruks will follow at a later stage. The Dutch Gambling Authority will confirm that all test scenarios can be completed; if so, the provider will receive a “release advice”. From the moment the Bill enters into force, providers will then be able and obliged to check whether players are registered in Cruks.
On 25 June 2020 the Dutch Gambling Authority opened a (digital) counter to answer any questions on connecting to Cruks. Land-based providers are invited to ask their questions via the following email address: email@example.com with reference to “Connection Cruks” and the Dutch Gambling Authority also indicated that they will be giving explanations via videoconference. In addition, there will also be a test version of the register available from 13 July 2020, which allows land-based operators to work on integrating the exclusion register before it becomes mandatory for all licensees. Online providers will be informed at a later stage.