Online gambling operator The Stars Group (TSG) has been fined €400k by Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) for permitting its flagship PokerStars brand to serve Dutch customers without local permission.
On Monday, the Netherlands’ Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) regulatory body announced that it had enforced a €400k fine on TSG Interactive Gaming Europe Ltd due to Dutch customers’ ability to gamble on the PokerStars.eu domain despite its lack of a Dutch gambling license.
The KSA inaugurated its TSG investigation in the second half of 2018, finally determining that PokerStars.eu had crossed a number of the regulatory red lines, in addition with the ability to access the site from a Dutch IP address, the use of popular Dutch payment processor iDeal, proposing service in the Dutch language and excluding the Netherlands in the site’s list of expelled territories.
The KSA’s investigation divulged that over 33k Netherlands-based PokerStars.eu accounts had treated around 225k transactions with iDeal in just a six-week period last summer. Succeeding interaction with the KSA regarding the investigation, PokerStars.eu dropped iDeal as a payment option and eliminated its Dutch-language contact form this January.
Unlike preceding authorizations of this sort, the KSA also found error with PokerStars.eu featuring links to two Netherlands-based problem gambling programs, which the regulator said was additional evidence of the site’s catering to Dutch punters. TSG responded by alleging that PokerStars.eu had included this information on the advice of the KSA, and TSG said it “regrets that this is now being used against” the company.
The timing of TSG’s penalty means the company will likely not be eligible to operate a Dutch-licensed site on January 1, 2021, the current target date for the launch of the Netherlands’ liberalized online gambling regime.
The government’s offered ‘cooling off’ period needs any operator found to have been ‘actively’ serving Dutch punters without local authorization to have severed its local market ties at least two years before being able to file a Dutch online gambling license application. The government intends to initiate accepting license applications on July 1, 2020.
The list of major international operators on the KSA’s naughty list reads like an online gambling ‘who’s who’ guide, to the point that UK-listed 888 Holdings used its recent H1 earnings report to trumpet its lack of KSA sanction. 888 believes the fact that it is “compliant with the letter of the law” will offer a first-mover advantage in the Dutch regulated market while its major rivals stew on the sidelines.
Still TSG has to signify whether it plans to appeal the KSA’s ruling, an option exercised by some other KSA penalty victims. However, Dutch courts have so far shown little sympathy for operators who’ve been drawn to the KSA’s woodshed.
Kannspelautoriteit Chairman, Rene Jansen, commented:
“Online gambling in the Netherlands is illegal; under the current legal regime for companies it is not possible to get a licence for offering online games of chance. Consumers are not assured of a safe game on an honest market with illegal providers.”