In a serious blow to online poker players and providers in the Netherlands, all current sites available in the country have been instructed to cease operations by November 1. In making the announcement, Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker also revealed he was instructing the nation’s gaming control agency to enforce fines and other penalties on poker sites failing to comply.
The move is the latest step in a meandering, decade-long path of online gaming legislation in the Netherlands. In 2011, the Bouwmeester et al motion stipulated that online gaming licenses would not be offered to companies acting illegally in the country. Similar to the situation in the U.S., considerable confusion arose on what exactly constituted an illegal site, given an absence of pre-existing legislation on a novel industry.
The Netherlands has now converged on a position similar to that in Nevada.
When regulated online poker was passed into law in the Silver State, one central and controversial provision was a “cool down” period for any gaming site deemed to have operated illegally in the market. Specifically, sites such as PokerStars were prohibited from seeking an online gaming license in Nevada for a period of ten years. For most affected sites, the earliest they can make such an application is 2023.
The situation in the Netherlands is less draconian, with the potential for proscribed sites to return within six months. In practice, the process of application and actually being awarded a license is expected to take rather longer. Again, there is a close parallel with Nevada, in that the Netherlands will license online gaming sites to operate in its jurisdiction as of October 1st. This provides an opportunity for companies not currently offering online gaming in the Netherlands.
Who wins, who loses?
In addition to PokerStars, several other sites will be impacted by the new regulations. These include bwin, Betsson and Unibet.
There is no shortage of contenders to fill the void. Frank Op de Woerd lists no fewer than 20 operators that have expressed strong interest in seeking an online gaming license.
The behemoth among the contenders is GGPoker. The popular platform craftily withdrew from the Dutch market a couple of years ago, apparently in anticipation of the regulatory scenario that has come in to effect. If GGPoker’s application is successful, this will add insult to PokerStars’ injury. The two industry giants have been locked in a battle all year for the title of highest cash-game traffic. While the Dutch market is not large, losing it to their chief competitor will make it that much harder for PokerStars to regain that title.
Finally, what of the poker players without whom the online poker industry does not exist? Will Dutch poker enthusiasts benefit from these changes?
Provided sites like PokerStars return to the market, player consensus seems to be a resounding “yes.” Most prefer carrying out financial transactions with a company that is clearly operating within the law. Thus, regulation serves that goal.
That said, ask any poker player in Nevada whether they prefer the regulated service offered by WSOP.com to the market available before Black Friday, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who favors the current situation.
Featured image source: Zscout370