Dutch regulator told to reassess licence process

Kindred argued that the regulator's licensing process discriminated against new bidders.
Kindred argued that the regulator's licensing process discriminated against new bidders.

The Netherlands’ highest administrative court has ordered the gambling regulator to check its licence processes comply with EU law.

The Netherlands.- The Dutch Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, has ordered the Netherlands’ gambling regulator KSA to reassess whether its licensing processes comply with European Union law after Kindred Group mounted a legal challenge.

Kindred’s Trannel subsidiary first took a legal complaint against the regulator to the Hague back in 2018. It claimed that KSA’s renewal process for Holland’s national totalisator licence discriminated against rival bidders to Sportech’s Zebetting, which has held the Netherlands’ totaliser licence since 1998.

Kindred claimed it was forced to withdraw its bid for the totalisator licence because the requirements for bidders were impossible to fulfil, giving Zebetting an unfair advantage. 

KSA won the original legal challenge at Hague, where it claimed Kindred had no right to challenge the process because it had withdrawn its licence application.

Kindred appealed, arguing that it withdrew its application because the process flouted EU law, under which all parties must be able to realistically apply for the permit.

It said KSA obliged applicants to have a land-based presence in the Netherlands, thereby excluding many operators from the licensing process.

Trannel argued that it should be respected as a competitor for the Dutch licence because it is active in the totaliser market in other countries. It said its interest expressed over the years was evidence that it had a real interest in the sector.

The Dutch Council of State has now agreed with Trannel, ruling that licensing procedures must allow any company to object to the outcome of the process, irrespective of whether they have an active application. It has quashed the original Hague decision and ordered KSA to cover all legal costs

Welcoming the decision, European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) Secretary General, Maarten Haije, said: “We welcome the ruling by the Dutch highest court, which ensures that the KSA will need to verify whether its existing procedures for licensing allocation comply with EU law.

“These are basic requirements of the European legal order which the Council of State reconfirms in its ruling. We are looking forward to the assessment of the KSA regarding the transparency and fairness of its current licensing procedure.”

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, Minister for Legal Protection, Sander Dekker, has admitted the launch of the country’s regulated online gaming market could be delayed further because of Covid-19.

The launch, which has already been delayed by six months to July 1 2021, could be pushed back by another few months after Socialist Party Member of Parliament, Michael van Nipsen, tabled an option to postpone the launch to give KSA time to ensure it had a structure in place and to ensure the Central Register for the Exclusion of Games of Chance (Cruks) was ready.

Dekker said: “On the one hand a number of authorities say: because the casinos have been closed for a while, we now see a huge shift to the illegal sector, so we wish we had the Act now, because then we could react much more effectively.

“At the same time, there are also a number of providers that say: we will soon have to meet all kinds of obligations, and how can we prepare for that? Then there’s the fact that my Ministry has also been very busy lately – a lot of things have been going on.”

Van Nipsen proposed the incorporation of a “reflection period” through which the KSA, problem gambling prevention and treatment services or the land-based gambling sector could propose a delay at any time up to three months before the market launch.

Another Dutch Member of Parliament, Madeleine Van Toorenburg, has put forward a motion for all licence holders to have an “available representative” in the Netherlands itself.

This week, KSA opened the tender process to select a provider for the problem gambling helpline that is to go live ahead of the launch of the regulated online gambling market.

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