Online gambling is allowed in the Netherlands. But under tight conditions

5:25pm Dec 14 2022

Within a time span of a year the Netherlands has gained quite a number of online casino bands. Although the number of commercials has decreased drastically due to the ongoing debate about advertising in the country, there are still gambling related commercials on TV and social media. According to the Dutch gambling industry these adverts have an important objective: creating brand awareness.

Brand awareness is meant to guide players from illegal online casinos to legal, licenced online casinos. There are thousands of online casinos available on the internet, but only a small portion of them are legal in the Netherlands in line with the most recent Dutch gambling law. This has led to a major challenge as it remains difficult for Dutch consumers to effectively recognise which websites are allowed for online gambling and which are not.

Legal at licensed online casinos only

In order to be allowed to offer online gambling products in the Netherlands, an online casino operator is required to obtain a licence issued by the Gaming Authority (KSA), the authority that is responsible for regulating the Dutch gambling market in the country. As gambling fans are only allowed to play at casinos that hold a KSA licence, this also means that all other online casinos (hence without a licence) are technically illegal in the country. The main reasoning behind this is that all regulated Dutch casinos adhere to the same standards of player protection against problem gambling and follow responsible play rules.

Recognising legal casinos as one of the major challenges

Currently, gambling adverts are still allowed in the Netherlands, although there has been fierce debate about the commercials with a complete ban likely to come into effect in the second quarter of 2023. In order to facilitate the recognition of legal websites, licensed online casinos have included a special licence wordmark as well as a licence number associated with the website which can be verified in the register of the KSA. Despite active promotional and marketing activities of legal online casinos through tv and online adverts, and the inclusion of wordmarks in the footer, according to Casino.nl, many consumers still face difficulties distinguishing between what is legal and what is not. At the same time, international, non-licenced online casinos are still often widely considered attractive because they tend to have a much larger portfolio than the Dutch websites.

The role of the Dutch language

Another fairly easy way to recognise whether an online casino is legal or not is to the language used on the site. International online casinos do not use the Dutch language on their website and stick to English or other languages. In its ongoing combat against illegal operators, the Dutch Gaming Authority has prohibited the use of the Dutch language on non-licenced websites, which in itself is quite remarkable given the fact that Dutch is also spoken in Belgium. By paying attention to the wordmark found in the footer, and verifying the domain extension (.nl), it is still possible to distinguish between a Dutch online casino and a Belgian online casino. Some online operators are active in both countries and have a separate platform for each market. As players need to verify their identity upon registration, Dutch players won’t be able to play on a Belgian website and vice versa.

Other requirements for playing online in the Netherlands

In addition to the requirement of needing to play in a KSA casino, Dutch punters must be at least 18 years of age to participate in gambling. They may also not be listed in the CRUKS register, the Central Register for Exclusion of Games of Chance, which was set up to exclude problem gamblers from accessing games of chance — both in land based venues as in online settings. All in all, online gambling has been legal in the Netherlands since early October 2021, but only under very strict conditions. This protected market is not only intended to boost local revenues, but is also meant to effectively protect Dutch consumers against the risks of playing at non-licenced and thus non-regulated websites.