Decisions Could Come Soon in Holland

19 September 2001
While the world waits for the United Kingdom to take charge as its premier online gambling jurisdiction--a shift that would surely take many months--its neighbor across the North Sea is poised to capitalize in the immediate future.

The government of Holland has been examining legalized online casino gambling since 1997, and a decision to move forward could come soon--possibly in a matter of weeks.

The research process has progressed toward policy implementation in the past year. In November 2000 Holland Casino, which controls a monopoly on casino gambling in the Netherlands, launched free-play online versions of its game and has since awaited government approval of real-money play.

Policy makers will engage in formal discussions next month, and although Holland hasn't formally indicated its intentions for Internet gambling, the overall sentiment has been that regulation is the preferred approach.

Eric van Vondelen, secretary of the Netherlands Gaming Control Board acknowledged this, however, he also pointed out that restrictions will apply--restrictions that bode well for England in its drive to become online gambling's leading jurisdiction. First, all online players would be required to register physically. Additionally, all players would be required to hold Dutch bank accounts.

The approach is consistent with that of most European jurisdictions, which tend to restrict online gambling to players within national borders. Despite such restrictions, though, van Vondelen, also a member of Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF), was quick to point out that Europe as a whole has taken a very progressive approach toward online gambling.

He added, "The view of the European member states has been, 'We want to treat [online gaming] as much as possible like we treat regular gaming.'"

With European member states on the same page regarding Internet gambling, and given the borderless nature of the Internet, most regulators agree that the natural progression would be toward establishing Europe-wide policies for regulation. Individual member states have resisted harmonization efforts so far, but Van Vondelen pointed out that a common market among European states has been accepted widely for other Internet industries. It's only natural, he said, for gaming to follow suit. "[Harmonization] will happen," he said. "It's just a question of time."

As for Holland, regulated online casino gambling appears imminent, but the timing isn't clear. A spokesperson for Holland Casino told IGN that they expect to be taking bets online by early 2002. Van Vondelen isn't as enthusiastic about the immediate future, but he acknowledged that it will likely happen "within the next few years."

Van Vondelen also said that Holland Casino's monopoly would remain intact online.

Mark Balestra

Mark Balestra is the Managing Director at BolaVerde Media Group. He previously worked at Clarion Gaming and the River City Group where he was the publisher of iGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.