Dutch Justice Minister to Shut Down Illegal Operators (Update 1)

29 January 2009
After this article was published, comments were added from De Lotto and Holland Casino.

Ernst Hirsch Ballin, the Dutch justice minister, is following through with plans to take legal action against Internet gambling sites that illegally target Dutch consumers, IGamingNews has confirmed.

"It is in line with the policy of his department," Tjeerd Veenstra, director of the state-owned sports betting operator De Lotto, told IGamingNews Thursday. "He is fed up with illegal organizations operating in the Netherlands."

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Mr. Hirsch Ballin's office told ANP, the Netherlands national news agency, that both local and foreign companies are being targeted for refusing to shut down their sites.

And, as previously threatened, Mr. Hirsch Ballin plans to warn banks in the Netherlands that they violate Dutch law by accepting transactions for illegal gambling, the spokesperson said.

In February 2008, Mr. Hirsch Ballin proposed legislation calling for a blacklist of illegal gambling operators to be circulated among the country's banks. Those banks, represented by the Netherlands Bankers Association, however, have refused to cooperate with the proposal, calling it impractical and illegal.

"[Mr. Hirsch Ballin] wants us to become an extension of the justice system, but that is not the role of the banks," Michel Noordermeer, spokesman for the association, told De Telegraaf, a local paper, in November.

In the Netherlands, online gambling sites must be licensed by the state to operate there; but so far, no operators have been granted licenses to offer their services. In April 2008, Holland Casino, the state-licensed casino operator, saw its bid to operate the country's first online casino rejected by the Dutch Senate.

Meanwhile, a report released Thursday by Motivaction, a market research firm in the Netherlands, shows that more Dutch citizens are gambling on the Internet than ever.

According to the report, Dutch gamblers are spending 450 million euros a year on illegal Internet gambling sites, which is double the annual spending since 2005. In addition, there are 485,000 regular gamblers, most of them young people, and they spend an average of 82 euros a month on gambling site, it said.

The report, commissioned by Holland Casino, was a follow-up to a survey conducted by Motivaction, Ron Goudsmit, vice president of business development for Holland Casino, told IGamingNews Thursday.

Mr. Goudsmit said Holland Casino is still interested in getting into the online market and the survey was done for the purpose of comparison.

The Dutch government has been informed of the results of the survey, Mr. Goudsmit said.

"They should know what's going on," Mr. Goudsmit said. "At some time, the issue will come back -- the issue of Internet gambling. Better to have legal Internet gambling than illegal."

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.