The Dutch Gaming Authority (Kansspelautoriteit) fined Mr Green Online Casino $US360,000 for failing to implement IP blocking procedures that the Netherlands believes foreign gaming companies should employ. Mr Green plans to appeal the fine, as the Malta-based and Swedish-owned gaming company claims it complies with all other Dutch regulations.
Furthermore, Mr Green contends it should not be fined for the IP blocking infringements because other international operators do not block IP addresses. The fact it was singled out will be the basis of the company’s appeal.
The Dutch Gaming Authority referred to its previously issued guidelines for online gaming in the Netherlands to justify its fine. In June 2017, the Dutch Gaming Authority put European online gaming operators on notice that it would take a more aggressive approach to regulations.
The DGA’s new approach was in response to the Dutch Lower House’s decision to pass a Remote Gaming Bill, which remains in limbo as of September 2018.
Mr Green’s Dutch Operations
The fine would make an impact on Mr Green’s yearly earnings from the Dutch gaming market. Financial reports suggest Mr Green will generate SEK 2.9 million in revenues from the Dutch gaming market this year, so the fine is over 10% of the year’s revenues. Dutch gaming represents a negligible segment of Mr Green’s revenues — about 6% — as the company competes in the UK, Italy, and dozens of other countries.
Mr Green is a subsidiary of MRG Group, which owns several European online gaming brands. Bertil and MamaMiaBingo operate in Norway, while BingoSjov and BingoSlottet operate in Denmark. MRG’s Redbet is a top provider in Sweden and the United Kingdom, while Winning Room and Vinnarum Casino are located in numerous European countries. 11.lv is a Latvian online gambling company.
MRG Group’s Acquisitions
Most of those operations were acquired by MRG Group in 2017 or 2018, so the company is in an expansion phase. Because MRG Group is traded on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, fines and other official sanctions are bad for investor relations.
The Dutch Gaming Authority has taken a more aggressive stance in recent months. The Gaming Authority investigated ten different video game products to see if their loot boxes constituted gambling. Some of the games tested were Dota 2, FIFA 18, Rocket League, and PUBG.
New Leadership at Dutch Gaming Authority
Marja Appelman, director of the Dutch Gaming Authority, announced she would step down from the regulator only months ago. Appleman took over as Executive Director of the Housing Market Directorate for the Dutch Ministry of the Interior & Kingdom Relations on August 1, 2018.
Chairman of the board Jan Suyver and longtime board member Henk Kesler also are leaving the Dutch Gaming Authority. A new chairman will be appointed on October 1, so an entirely new leadership team is only weeks away from being announced at the Dutch Gaming Authority. Any new team might reverse previous policies, though it is expected the new appointees will maintain continuity with Marja Appleman’s term as the DGA’s head.
Remote Gaming Bill 2016
The Dutch Gaming Authority has said for some time it planned to get tougher on operators who target Dutch residents, despite lack of a new law to give regulators broader powers. The Dutch Lower House approved a Remote Gambling Bill in 2016, but the bill has not been ratified by the Dutch Senate.
A move to pass the Remote Gaming Bill and begin licensing is not expected until at least 2019, though it is uncertain whether the Senate will take up the bill even then. On June 1, 2017, the Dutch Gaming Authority announced it would take sterner measures against international operators. The fine against Mr Green appears to be a part of those measures.
Marja Appleman Hints at Broader Authority
When she announced her resignation from the DGA, Marja Appleman hinted that the Remote Gaming Bill was still in the works. At the time, Appleman said, “My job is done. The organisation is operating in a way that makes it ready to expand its tasks. That will be the case if the Remote Gambling Bill is adopted. Both for me and for the Gaming Authority, it is time for the next phase.”