Dutch Treat

Last week the Dutch government announced it may grant licenses to internet gambling companies including bingo sites. Essentially the Netherland will lift restrictions that most Dutch citizens choose to ignore. The proposal represents a dramatic switch in government policies related to online gambling. In the past the Dutch government defended their online gambling ban all the way to the highest court in the European Union. Jaap Oosterveer, a spokesman for the Dutch ministry of public safety and justice told reporters, “It is a big shift (in policy), but this is a new government with a more liberal approach.”

State secretary of security and justice, Fredrik Teeven sent a letter to the Dutch parliament that said that hundreds of thousands of Dutch routinely defy the ban on online gambling and a more liberal approach would allow more oversight of gambling sites doing business in the Netherlands. Teeven also said that many European countries including France, Italy, Austria, Britain and Sweden already regulate online gambling and the Netherlands should license online games such as poker, bingo sites and sports betting.

Some online gaming companies have challenged the laws in several European countries in an effort to break into new markets for expansion. The internet bingo industry has expanded into several new European markets in the last two years and is eying the lucrative Dutch market. Britain’s biggest bookmaker Ladbrokes and Betfair the world’s largest online gaming exchange mounted a legal challenge against Dutch gaming policies but the challenge was unsuccessful in the courts.

Teeven went on to say in his letter to Parliament that Dutch gamblers should have an attractive and wide range of gambling options and also said there should be safeguards to guard against problem gambling and fraud. Teeven added that the licensing system in the Netherlands should be transparent. Currently a nationwide gambling monopoly is held by casino operator Holland Casino and Teeven said the possibility of competition should be looked at. In 2012 the Dutch government will start auctioning gambling and lottery licenses which are expected to generate about 10 million euros ($14.1 million) per year for the government.

Bingo is popular in the Netherlands but currently only charity games are legal. When the Dutch government starts auctioning licenses next year many of the larger bingo sites will be among the bidders. Although gambling at bingo sites is illegal thousands of Dutch citizens defy the law and if the government liberalizes online gambling laws those Euros will stay in the Netherlands.

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