Curacao Operator Told Not to Take Dutch Bets

7 March 2003

Casino Lux, an online casino operating out of the Netherlands Antilles, has become the latest victim of a new ideology in the Netherlands to banish foreign-based Internet gaming operators from Holland.

Last week a lower court ruled that Paramount and Universal Amusements, which operate Casino Lux and a host of other gambling sites, could no longer allow Dutch residents to access and bet on the site.

Justin Franssen is an attorney who is working with Casino Lux. He said he couldn't comment on what possible legal steps would be taken next by the company. However, he said the Dutch government and its gaming monopolies are fighting a losing battle.

"I don't think the monopolies will be around five or ten years from now," he said.

As part of the ruling, the lower court said officials with the online casino had to block access to the site from Dutch residents and couldn't advertise its services within the country.

Company officials received a letter last month from Casino Holland, which operates a gaming monopoly in the country and brought the suit before the court. The lottery stated a March deadline of when Casino Lux had to stop accepting bets from Dutch residents. The case is not the first of its kind in Holland.

Last month, Dutch lottery operator De Lotto turned to a lower court and got a favorable ruling that required British bookmaker Ladbrokes to block Dutch punters from gambling on its site.

In the latest round of action, though, Holland Casino went after licensed and regulated operators in Curacao, which is part of the Netherlands Antilles.

Paramount and Universal Amusements operate many of their casinos and betting sites through gaming licenses that were granted from the government of Curacao. Despite operating out of the Netherlands Antilles though, they got no preferential treatment from the Dutch courts.

Alistair Assheton is the CEO of VIPSports, an Internet-based betting and gaming operation that is licensed in Curacao. He also heads up a recently formed group of Curacao-based operators designed to give the industry a voice within the government.

He said part of being regulated by Curacao is that operators give up the right to target residents in the Netherlands Antilles. Operators in Curacao would gladly block Holland residents as well if they were asked to, he added.

"The companies in question were heavily targeting the Dutch market, and doing it using the Dutch language," he said. "We already abide by the terms of our license, which exclude the Netherlands Antilles from our player list, and we would happily also exclude Holland if it made people happy."

Assheton said less than 1 percent of the volume generated at VIP and its affiliated sites comes from bettors in Holland. In fact, he said, the amount is probably less than 0.1 percent. He said other operators may see a bigger share of their players coming from Holland but he speculated that unless an operator is targeting only Dutch bettors, probably less than 10 percent of their customers are from Holland.

Not only does the Dutch bettor make up a small segment of the overall betting market, Assheton said research shows they aren't known for being "high-rollers."

"We are not in the least interested in attracting Dutch players," he said. "Our experience does not show them as the most free spending gamblers, online or anywhere else."

While the Dutch courts showed no leniency toward the Curacao-based operators, Assheton feels that being based in the Netherlands Antilles could have been to Casino Lux's detriment.

"I have to say these operators should probably not have chosen a Dutch protectorate state to flout the Dutch gaming rules," he said. "Antigua or Costa Rica may well have been a more sensible option."

Officials with Grand Virtual, the company that owns Paramount and Universal and is the operator of Casino Lux, didn't want to comment about the court case. One executive did say that his company has prided itself on being a "responsible" operator and because of that policy doesn't accept bets from U.S. residents, as VIP does.

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