Dutch Regulator Slaps BWin with Massive €350,000 Fine

Aug 15

The Netherlands Gambling Authority, or Kansspelautoriteit (Ksa), has imposed a massive €350,000 penalty on the immediate corporate parent of Bwin, the Gibraltar-based ElectraWorks Limited.

The fine puts an end to a prolonged investigation into games and services, which the Ksa determined were focusing on Dutch online gamblers. It encompasses activity offered by Bwin from August 3, 2018, through to January 16, 2019 – which is well within the time of Bwin’s current existence as part of GVC Holdings LLC’s widespread brand family.

The penalty comes after hearings that were made regarding Bwin’s unlicensed services, which happened mostly in 2017. These were conducted by the Ksa and included Bwin representation. After the hearings, Bwin still did not remove particular elements of its online services, which the Ksa reckoned to be directly focused on Dutch gamblers.

The Ksa said that Bwin offered a “large selection of sports bets on the site. It was also possible to play live casino games such as roulette, blackjack and poker.”

The Kansspellautoriteit’s 26-page ruling on the matter points out how Bwin’s implementation of Dutch online payment-processor iDEAL was a noted element in its decision. Several iDEAL logos and links were seen in the “Online Banking” section of Bwin’s website.

Also seen was a declaration that the payment method only applied to consumers having ING, ABN AMRO, Rabobank, Fortis, SNS Bank, Bunq, Knab, SNS Regio Bank, ASN Bank, Triodos Bank, and Van Lanschot Bankers bank account, which were all “All Dutch banks”, the Ksa stressed.

The fine issued by the Ksa continues a longstanding dispute between Dutch authorities and Bwin that actually predates the Kansspellautoriteit’s founding in 2012. In 2011, the Netherlands’ pre-Ksa Project Bureau of Gaming threatened Bwin with fines and blacklisting over its Dutch-targeting services.

In 2012, the two sides came to an informal non-prosecution arrangement wherein Bwin agreed to two different stipulations: no Dutch-language gambling offers, and no advertising on TV or in print media in the Netherlands.

Dutch regulators also told Bwin that more restrictions would be forthcoming, as the long-term goals of the just-forming Ksa were still being discussed. That has turned into a very long-term project, as the Netherlands’ online gambling regulatory framework will not be implemented until January 2021.

Then in June 2017, the Ksa proclaimed that it had settled on more strict enforcement policies with immediate effect. During the 2017 Gaming in Holland conference, Ksa officials fielded questions on the intensified restrictions. They said that the changes were actually preferred rather than a total online gambling “blackout” that might stay in effect until 2021.

The new restrictions detailed several criteria that the Ksa would use to assess whether a given site targeted Dutch gamblers. These included – but were not limited to – the following:

  • Gaming offers via a website with a .nl extension (also including direct transmission through intermediary websites with a .nl extension)
  • Offers of games of chance displayed on a website in the Dutch language, whether or not this occurred post-login
  • Illegal online gambling offers, advertised via radio or television or in printed media, aimed at the Dutch market
  • Use of domain names that referenced the Netherlands or Dutch-themed concepts, in combination with gaming specifications (examples included “clog bingo”, “fun poker”, and or “red-white-blue-casino”
  • Other characteristics from which a focus on the Netherlands can be derived (examples included pictures of typical Dutch elements like clogs or mills, or bonuses that can be characterized as typically Dutch, such as stroopwafels
  • The use of means of payment that are exclusively or largely through Dutch entities
  • The lack of (different variations) of geo-blocking.