Netherlands Gaming Authority Tackles Underage World Cup Bets

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 | Written by April Bergman
Netherlands Gaming Authority Tackles Underage World Cup Bets

The Netherlands Gaming Authority (Kansspelautoriteit or KSA) said it will focus on underage football betting during the month-long 2018 World Cup, which begins on June 14 in Russia. Dutch gaming regulators say they will not find bettors under the age of 18, but instead plan to crack down on offshore gambling sites which encourage Dutch youths to bet on sports.

At the moment, Toto Gaming, an online casino, bookmaker, and totalizator which is part of the Dutch Lottery, is the only gaming operator allowed to offer wagers to Dutch sports bettors. Toto is licensed and regulated by the Ministry of Finance.

International offshore operators like 888 and Betsson have stopped accepting players from IP addresses inside the Netherlands. At the same time, some of those operators have called for the European Union to sanction the Netherlands for gaming regulations which break EU trade laws.

Despite the Dutch National Team failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 2002, the KSA believes football betting should be at a 4-year high in the Netherlands during this year’s World Cup.

Gaming Authority’s Statement on Youth Gambling

The Gaming Authority said it is obliging other non-licensed sportsbooks to block Dutch sports bettors from their sites. Also, Kansspelautoriteit called for anyone who knows of underage betting to report the activity on their site, which has a special notification form for informants.

In a statement, Dutch gaming regulator said, “The gaming authority acts against illegal gambling providers because there is no control on the fairness of the game, the detection of gambling addiction and the participation of vulnerable groups, such as minors.”

“Young people form a vulnerable group; gambling providers must make every effort to prevent minors from participating. The gaming authority would like to hear from parents, teachers, friends or other people involved whether they take part in sports betting by minors.”

Dutch Sports Betting Increases

Kansspelautoriteit said that sports betting has grown at a significant rate since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In 2016 alone, Dutch sports bets on Toto Gaming grew at a 34% rate.

The rise in Dutch sports betting comes at a time that nearby countries have shown a decline in overall sports betting, despite those areas having more betting options. Germany’s sports betting industry has declined in the past two years.

Betsson Calls for EU Action

In July 2017, UK bookmaker Betsson called on the European Union to take action against the Dutch government, because Betsson believes the KSA’s actions break European Union trade laws. By allowing a Dutch-based company (Toto Gaming) to offer a type of bet, while banning international operators from the same, the Dutch government is breaking the EU’s fair trade laws.

Betsson wrote in a complaint to the EU Commission, “The current law in the Netherlands is not in line with EU law and we have therefore asked the Commission to re-open the infringement proceedings that were initiated against the Netherlands in 2006.”

Why KSA’s Actions Break EU Laws

The Netherlands could ban all sports betting in the country, including domestic and foreign companies, and remain legal under EU law. The Netherlands also could legalize sports betting for foreign and domestic companies and remain legal. It cannot ban one type of sports betting and allow the other, because it amounts to protectionism.

At the time, the KSA allowed other online casinos operators, like LeoVegas, to remain active, while banning other sites. Though it involved another form of gambling, Betsson noted that the KSA’s policies created confusion. The missive said, “Betsson view the ongoing confusion in the Dutch market as unacceptable; we have therefore submitted an official complaint to the European Commission.”

European Union Free Trade Laws

It is the same argument made against several other EU members over the years, including Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Greece, and Romania. In fact, Switzerland on June 10 voted to impose a protectionist online gambling law, because it forced Swiss Internet service providers to block international online gaming sites, while redirecting Swiss players to domestic gaming sites.

Swiss residents voted at a 73% rate to legalize the foreign sports betting ban, despite opponents of the law making their case based on anti-censorship arguments. One can expect to see complaints by gaming companies against the new Swiss online gambling ban, just as they have complained against the KSA’s actions.

Age Verification Software

For now, though, the Netherlands Gaming Authority is going to focus on combating online sports betting by punters under the age of 18. How effective their crackdown will be on a voluntary basis is another matter, but it probably depends on how effective offshore online sportsbooks’ and sports betting exchanges’ age verification software is. Given that 888, Betsson, and other gaming operators work in the UK betting market — the most heavily regulated gaming jurisdiction in the world — it is possible their age verification software is more advanced that that of Toto Gaming.