Dutch Government into Online Gaming

15 January 1999

Just before Christmas holidays, the Dutch State Secretary of Justice, Mr. Cohen, announced that he will consider allowing online gaming in Holland. There have been some rumors going around the Internet about this decision and, as ever, it's always difficult to determine what's really been said. Being involved directly with this issue, Arjan van't Veer gave IGN some more detailed information about what's going on in the Dutch nambling scene.

As reported in IGN, Cohen wrote that the existing licensees within Holland (like the Dutch State Lottery, the Postal Code Lottery, Holland Casino and slot operators) will get permission to set up in-home (Internet or interactive) gambling. This view is based upon the research done in 1998 into the various aspects of Interactive gambling. Cohen based his ideas fully upon the results of this study. "We should offer legal online gambling because of the large number of existing illegal operators," he said. By doing so,all the fundamentals of the existing gaming policy can be maintained. These fundamentals are the recognition of the players urge to gamble, the goal of using gaming as a fundraising mechanism and a concern about curbing illegal gaming activities.

By allowing the existing operators to use the Internet to distribute their products, a controlled supply of games will be possible. Cohen stated, furthermore, that introducing Internet games as a form of product innovation is a logical answer to international and technological developments. Although Cohen did not make it clear, it is obvious that he will not allow organizations other than the existing operators to go legally online. Legal supply shall be bound to national borders, as it wants to reflect the legal situation in Europe.

Together with the police and the Attorneys General, Mr. Cohen will investigate which provisions of the Dutch Gaming Act are violated by other Internet operators. He stated that enforcement of infringements of this Act will be very difficult. To prevent the spread of illegal online gambling and the establishment of foreign lotteries through the International computer network, he hopes to persuade ISP's to block access to such sites for Dutch users. This could be done on a voluntary basis.

The letter continues with some remarks regarding the current gaming policy. Mr. Cohen sees, in these new developments, an opportunity to rethink the existing policy. New ideas, new market structures, new operators and new games are only a few issues that can be taken into account. To formulate a new policy, it will take some time to actually get it implemented.

Regarding online gaming, the ideas of existing operators will be investigated in the coming months. These ideas will be reviewed and compared with the ideas of the gaming regulators. As Mr. Cohen said, some specific issues might be looked after such as the privacy of players, the total amount that can be played on a daily basis and the possibilities of secure payment systems. The first pilot projects might be able to start at the end of 1999 or early 2000. Arjan van't Veer of the Dutch State Lottery SENS states that "we, as existing gaming operators, as well as the representatives of the Dutch Government, have to prepare the next steps carefully and on a basis of mutual understanding. Options and consequences must be completely evaluated."

These plans do not have direct effect upon the situation in the Dutch Antilles. This part of the Kingdom is allowed to make its own legislation, its own laws and policies. Nevertheless, it is possible that the Dutch government will take a much closer look at what is going on there and their activities should not be forgotten.