Dutch online gambling bill held up

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Early in July, a bill to legalize and regulate several forms of online gambling, including online poker, was approved in the Dutch Lower House.

The Dutch online gambling industry was sure that the bill would be passed into law early in 2017. But unfortunately, that is not to be.

Dutch gamblers have waited for several months, but the bill still has a number of unanswered questions. The state secretary is required to respond to these questions before the bill can be voted upon.

One of those unanswered questions is whether 80% Dutch players, which is the target that the bill sets, will use the services of online poker sites bearing a Dutch license in spite of the fact that the bill proposes higher taxes that its predecessors and the fact that the regulatory body is unable to block IP addresses and DNS of offshore online poker sites.

There are also questions on why the bill does not include online lotteries and why the tax rates for bingo games and sports betting are different for online gambling sites and land-based gambling facilities

The predecessors of the above-mentioned bill had suggested low tax rates of 20% of the gross gambling revenue for poker sites. This led to protests as the tax rate is 29% of the gross gambling revenue for land-based poker rooms. Those holding shares in the poker gaming industry exerted their influence and the Lower House approved a bill including 29% tax rate for online poker operators as well.

This might have solved one problem, but the problem of high tax rates still remain. Online poker offerings cannot be made attractive if high tax rates are imposed on online poker operators.

The result would be smaller bonuses and less attractive loyalty schemes, enabling online poker rooms to make a reasonable profit.

But it will turn Dutch poker players away from online poker rooms licensed at home and encourage them to sign up at unregulated online poker rooms

Despite its problems, the bill has a lot of support. Justin Franssen, a gambling lawyer, said that a majority of senators are quite happy about the bill. Its success, however, depends greatly on whether it will be passed before the introduction of the new Parliament as elections are slated for March 2017.

Gaming consultant Eric van Vondelen said that it will be “impossible for the bill to be debated and voted on during the remainder of this calendar year.”

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