William Hill’s Fine Could Cause Chaos for Future iGaming Licenses

Face of young sad woman painted with flag of Holland

There’s trouble in the Netherlands after a staggering fine was levied on William Hill by the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA).

The well-known operator plans to appeal the €300,000 ($338,700; £270,000) fine for offering Dutch gamers an opportunity on the WilliamHill websites and other applications.

The regulator claims the company should have valid iGaming license although online gambling is currently banned in the country. A bill to regulate the market is currently going through the Dutch legislative process, but critics are concerned about the wide-ranging implications this fine could have on gaming as a whole in the Netherlands because William Hill certainly isn’t the only operator to offer it.

Betting and gambling

In its ruling, the regulator said that players were able to participate in sports betting as well as online gambling via the website. Games available to players included blackjack, roulette, and poker.

The ruling established that the website’s option to translate content into Dutch as well as offering iDEAL as an option for processing payments amounted to the operator catering directly to the Dutch market. iDEAL, a payment system that is available only to those who bank in the Netherlands, is the country’s most widely used payment solution.

Rene Jansen, chairman of the executive board at the KSA, said the fine represents ongoing efforts to protect Dutch consumers from operators who are not regulated in the Netherlands. He added: “A player who gambles with an illegal provider does without any protection; there is no supervision, so it is impossible to ensure these companies are conducting business fairly, and that is why the KSA acts against illegal providers.

“Protecting the consumer is an important objective of the KSA, in addition to preventing gambling addiction and combating illegality.”

William Hill to appeal

A William Hill spokesperson has said that the company will appeal the fine and that other operators who have also been fined in the country have either appealed in the past or are in the process of appealing a fine.

William Hill has expressed concern that the fine could have implications for licenses held in other jurisdictions, including Nevada, according to documents released by the KSA that provide details of the regulator’s investigation.

MRG was fined €312,500 ($355,000; £281,000) for allowing Dutch users to access online gambling via its platforms and Corona Ltd (a subsidiary of Betsson Group) was fined €300,000 ($338,700; £270,000) for operating in the Netherlands without a license.

There have been suggestions this year that companies who have been fined under current regulations will not be eligible for an iGaming license in the country once the government approves new legislation on the matter.

Level of discontent

There is a level of discontent about the government’s slow progress on new regulations for the changing gambling market. The outgoing chairman of the KSA and the current vice-chairman, Jan Suyver and Henk Kesler, have both expressed their discontent at the lengthy process.

The bill was passed by the lower house of the country’s legislature in 2016 but has yet to progress through the Senate. It includes a 29% tax on operators’ gross gaming revenue and suggestions for licensing to implement tight consumer protection laws.

The licensing of gambling operators is currently frozen in the country and has led to a flurry of these hefty fines being handed out to online gambling operators. In September, Mr Green Ltd. was fined for operating without a license but appealed on the grounds that the Dutch Gambling Authority illegally obtained information used in the investigation. It remains to be seen how William Hill will approach its appeal, but the current fine could throw up a number of issues if it does affect the company’s ability to operate in other markets.