Peter-Paul de Goeij, the Managing Director of the Netherlands Online Gambling Association (NOGA), tells LoginCasino readers about the upcoming gambling regulations in the country and their influence on the industry.
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Peter-Paul, in your opinion, what opportunities will new legislation for online gambling in the Netherlands (which will come into effect in 2021) bring to the industry?
The new legislation has its opportunities and challenges. The biggest opportunity will be for operators to legally enter a newly regulated Dutch online gambling market in the first batch and successfully capture Dutch consumers with their offerings. The Dutch market may seem geographically small, but we have a rather large population with a pretty high spend per capita. Many marketeers say that the Netherlands is an excellent testing ground for any new product, so the gambling companies looking to successfully join this market will have to tap into the specific, typical Dutch demand. The challenge, at the same time, will be to keep a high percentage of Dutch players channeled towards the legal offering and away from the websites that will not get a Dutch licence. The clue is that you will have to remain within very tight regulatory bounds whilst keeping an attractive offer that can compete with the pirates out there.
Will it be difficult for operators to get a licence?
I do not think that it will be difficult for an average operator of good standing to get a licence. Of course, your background will be properly vetted and checked, and if you, for instance, have been violating the prioritisation criteria the Netherlands Gambling Authority has set, any time recently before application, you will have to cool off until you have had a period of 32 months of a clean slate, so an unbroken period of two years and 8 months of not violating any prioritisiation criteria before your application. I guess that any operator with experience in applying for online licenses in, for instance, Denmark, Sweden, the UK and Belgium will recognise most of the parts of the licensing process and has everything ready at hand. If you want, you can already prepare today by taking a look at the licensing process for charity lottery licences, which is already available and can be downloaded from the regulators’ website.
What obstacles may Dutch gambling companies face after law adoption?
The incumbent operators like the state lottery and the state casino already have a very strong position, and they will definitely have a head start and exert their market power gained on the land-based market onto the nascent online market. The state lottery already exists since 1726, and it will be hard to find a Dutch citizen who has not heard of them. In the beginning, their name and brand recognition will be hard to beat and, in the advertising market, they have a very strong position. In other words, there will not be a level playing field at the start, and this will hurt newcomers to the Dutch market. The only obstacle I see for incumbents is that, typically, state-run incumbents are not best equipped to compete on an open market, as they have no experience with full and free competition, and they tend to be relatively slow in decision making and innovation.
What about international operators? How will new regulations influence their operation within the country?
One obstacle, or challenge if you will which I already touched upon before, is the channelisation target of 80%. With the very strict and prescriptive nature of some of the Dutch regulations, sometimes it may be hard to compete with the unregulated offer. For example, some types of betting are banned in the Netherlands because the legislator is afraid that these are prone to match-fixing. The demand for these games, however, will continue to exist. The risk is that Dutch consumers will turn away from the regulated Dutch licensed offer where they cannot play the bets they want, to the offshore pirates that offer unrestricted and unregulated games, with all dire consequences connected to it. With the vanishing consumer, the regulatory oversight also disappears, and chances to discover and combat match-fixing diminishes.
Do you think that 2021 will become a new era for the online gambling industry in the Netherlands?
Yes, definitely. 2021 will be the start of a new era for the Netherlands online gambling market at least! The Netherlands' online gambling market has a great future and a promise. We have been jointly working towards a new regulatory system for remote gambling and an open licensing system for online gambling in the Netherlands since 2012 really. I am convinced that with the continued leadership of the government, the gambling authority, and cooperation of the incumbents and new entrants, the Netherlands online gambling markets can grow out to become the shining example of a successfully regulated and open online gambling market in Europe.