New Dutch figures show surge in illegal online gambling

Survey commissioned by Holland Casino shows 20% rise in participation ahead of Remote Gaming Bill's returns to parliament next week

The number of people gambling illegally online in the Netherlands has grown by 20% in the last two years, according to a new report commissioned by Holland Casino.

Just a week before the issue of legalising online gambling returns to the Dutch Senate, a survey of 18,000 citizens conducted by research and strategy consultancy Motivaction found that 1.8m people are now betting via unlicensed sites in the Netherlands - 300,000 more than 2016.

Despite the rise in the number of players, Motivaction found that the market remains worth around €600m annually.

Two thirds of frequent players – judged to be those that gamble at least seven times a year – would rather play with a licensed operator. Motivaction suggests that the Dutch Treasury is missing out on up to €175m in tax revenue every year after the progress of legislation that would introduce a regulated system stalled in the national legislature almost three years ago.

Erwin van Lambaart, director of Holland Casino - the state-owned company which has the legal monopoly on gambling in the Netherlands - said he hopes lawmakers will legalise online gambling to allow licensed operators to thrive.

"More and more Dutch people gamble totally unprotected on the internet,” he said. “They do so with international providers who are established on sunny holiday islands with dubious regulations.

“Moreover, these companies do not pay gambling tax and that is unfair competition."

Last June, it was revealed the country’s coalition government intends to resume the process with the aim of introducing new regulation by 2020.

The Senate will debate the Netherlands’ Remote Gaming Bill on February 5, with the legislation having been passed by the House of Representatives in 2016.

It is believed a slim majority of Senators will back the legislation, which would create a regulated market where operators are able to apply for licences. Last year, Sander Dekker, Minister for Legal Protection, proposed additional measures that should significantly reduce the risk of problem gambling.

Looking to stem fears of a rise in addiction, Van Lambaart said that Holland Casino has developed technology that can identify problem gambling.

"Smart algorithms in the software allow us to immediately see if someone's playing pattern changes drastically,” he explained.

Dutch gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) issued a record €1.7m (£1.5m/$1.9m) in fines to companies that breached rules and regulations throughout 2018.

The regulator handed out a total of 23 sanctions over the course of the last year, including seven administrative penalties, 12 penalties and four charges under administrative coercion.

Betclic Everest Group's Bet-At-Home, Betsson subsidiary Corona, Mr Green operator MRG, CyberRock Entertainment and its Honeydew subsidiary, and William Hill were all found to have illegally targeted Dutch players online.