Unibet Fined €470,000 For Targeting Dutch Online Gamblers

An increasing crackdown by the Netherlands Gambling Authority against operators illicitly targeting the country’s online gamblers racked up another violator yesterday with the announcement of a €470,000 fine against Unibet.eu and its Malta-based parent entity, Trannel International Ltd, over violations involving the Dutch online market that occurred between August and December of 2018.

The big fine slapped on Unibet, which is part of the corporate family of brands, comes just 10 days after the authority (also known as the Kansspelautoriteit or KSA), fined bwin over largely similar violations. In both instances, the KSA determined that the operator being investigated had made Dutch-based payment processor iDEAL easily available to Netherlands-based gamblers. The prominent online wallet dominates the Dutch market and has working relationships with most of the country’s land-based banks.

Unibet LogoUnibet received an additional ding within the KSA’s computation of damages by also offering Dutch-language customer service and support.

Top-level parent Kindred Group acknowledged the KSA’s ruling but immediately announced its plans for an appeal. The company’s statement appears to pave the way for a legal claim that all online-gambling rules and procedures put forth by Netherlands gaming regulators since 2011 are advisories only, and that only the antiquated 1964 Netherlands Gambling Act — created decades before the internet itself came into being — has any legal force.

This portion of the Kindred Group statement appears to define Unibet’s claims:

… The decision by the KSA, which relates to investigations prior to the recently approved Remote Gambling Bill, is in line with similar actions taken by the regulator over the last 18 months towards other gambling operators.

Kindred respects any requests from the Dutch regulator and is fully compliant with the rules set out by the Ministry of Justice and Security earlier this year. Kindred remains committed to having a constructive dialogue with the regulator and other stakeholders. While anticipating the establishment of a regulated online gambling market in 2021, Kindred aims to play a leading role in promoting Dutch gambling policy objectives, such as consumer protection. For instance, Kindred emphasises its ambition to reach zero per cent revenue from harmful gambling by 2023.

“Respect[ing] any requests” from the KSA is a polite way of Unibet stating that it plans to assert it is lawfully present in what it deems an unregulated Dutch online-gambling market, and that it doesn’t consider that status to be changing until the country’s Remote Gambling Act comes into full force in 2021.

That belies all previous rules-tightening edicts issued by the KSA, which was authorized in 2011 and launched in 2012. As with bwin, Unibet specifically ran afoul of a 2017 list of banned activities published by the KSA in 2017. That list was communicated to all known online operators participating in the Dutch online space. Banned activity included but was not limited to the following (emphasis ours):

  • 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;
  • the use of means of payment that are exclusively or largely through Dutch entities;
  • the lack of (different variations) of geo-blocking.

As with the earlier penalty levied against bwin, Unibet was granted an official grace period more than one year long in which to bring its services into compliance. And, just as with bwin, the KSA did not launch an investigation into Unibet’s rules-breaking procedures until that full year had elapsed.

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