To stay or to go?

With the highly anticipated launch of Dutch iGaming and sports betting just one day away, the country’s gaming regulator has announced the first ten licensees. Notably, that list is missing three significant names – Kindred Group, Betsson, and Entain. The companies previously operated in the Dutch market without licenses, and have recently had to make some important decisions in regards to their presence in the country.

they will cease to take on new Dutch customers from October 1

In accordance with the Remote Gambling Act passed in 2019, unlicensed operators in the Netherlands must go through a “cooling off” period of six months before they can apply to rejoin the legal market. Entain and Betsson have announced that they intend to follow the letter of the law in this respect. Both said they will cease to take on new Dutch customers from October 1.

UK-based operator Kindred has adopted a different stance however. As reported by EGR, the company said this week that it will not block Dutch customers from accessing its online gambling products despite the legal market launching Friday. Kindred has argued that it complies with the law by not targeting Dutch customers.

Firms explain their decisions

In a statement released this Thursday, Entain said it hopes to receive a license for the Dutch market during the first half of 2022. The company operates in the Netherlands through its bwin betting brand. It said its exit aligns with its objective of generating 100% of proceeds from regulated markets by the end of 2023. Entain expects leaving the market to impact EBITDA by around £5m ($6.7m) per month.

we have a strong belief in the Dutch market”

Similarly, Betsson is hopeful that its decision to leave the market will lead to more favorable treatment when it applies for a license in six months time. The operator said the exit will cost it a less substantial SEK25m each month ($2.9m) from the last quarter of this year. “We have a strong belief in the Dutch market, and we have a clear ambition to operate under the new Dutch regulatory framework in the future,” commented Betsson CEO Pontus Lindwall.

Meanwhile, Kindred, which operates in the Netherlands through betting brand Unibet, has defended its decision not to block Dutch customers. According to an EGR report, the firm believes it operates in compliance with Dutch prioritization criteria. This bans any online gambling operator from specifically targeting the country’s residents. Among other rules, it prohibits the use of an .NL web domain or Dutch symbols in marketing.

Despite continuing to accept Dutch customers, Kindred has announced its intention to apply for a license in the new market in Q4 2021.

KSA names first licensees

With the new, regulated market set to launch on Friday, De Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) named the first ten operators earlier this week. They include TOTO Online BV, FPO Netherlands BV, Holland Casino NV, NSUS Malta Limited, Play North Limited, Tombola International Malta Plc, Hillside (New Media Malta) Plc, Bingoal Netherlands BV, Betent BV, and LiveScore Malta Limited.

Although the gaming regulator has only approved ten licenses to begin with, it has made clear that it expects other operators to join them further down the line. The KSA has received a total of 29 license applications to date, but noted that a significant portion of them failed to meet its high standards for licensees.

While Kindred, Betsson, and Entain have now made their positions in regards to the market known, PokerStars has remained silent on the issue. The Flutter Entertainment-owned poker brand has operated in the Netherlands for years, but could face hefty fines from the KSA if it chooses to remain.

Netherlands Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker has ordered the KSA to fine any unlicensed operators that do not exit the market completely by November 1. The regulator can dish out penalties as high as €600,000 ($702,705).

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