Earlier this week, gaming regulators from the Netherlands handed down one of the largest fines in gaming history against one of the biggest operations in the game. The Stars Group, the owners of the monolithic PokerStars juggernaut, were hammered with a massive €400,000 fine for “operating without a license” in the country. The Dutch government gaming regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) handed down the ruling and detailed many instances where, according to their review, PokerStars violated their country’s laws.
Investigation Dates Back to Last Year
The KSA started investigating PokerStars in the second half of last year and, in a rather short period of time, state they were able to establish the violations. In the Netherlands, online gambling and a whole and, in particular, online (and live) poker are illegal, with the only gaming that can be offered currently live gaming at one of the Holland Casino locations throughout the country, Thus, once the KSA was able to establish that PokerStars was accessible in the country, they could establish that PokerStars was violating the law.
Officials with the KSA say that they were able to access and play on the PokerStars.eu version of the hugely popular online operation, but that wasn’t the extent of the violations. According to the officials, they were able to fund their accounts on PokerStars through an online payment system only available in the Dutch nation called iDEAL. Other violations, such as not informing players that they were violating the law by playing on the site and inclusion of the Dutch language in both customer service and problem gaming information, were also noted by the KSA.
PokerStars isn’t the first company to get nailed by the KSA for gaming violations. In August, the KSA also fined the Kindred Group and their subsidiary, Trannel International, for the very same “operating without a license” violation. In that case, the Kindred Group was slammed with a €470,000 fine (in both the Kindred Group and PokerStars fines, the value in U. S. dollars is around $500,000). The Kindred Group is appealing the fine (although it isn’t clear who they are appealing to) and you can expect that PokerStars, through The Stars Group, will appeal their fine.
Importance of Not Being Fined
For those that may think that being fined by the gaming regulator of a country is just a minor thing, the Dutch laws demonstrate why they can be problematic. Although there is no online gaming and/or poker currently in the Netherlands, the country’s legislature has passed laws that will open up a state-regulated online industry. The Remote Gambling Act, passed in February 2019, will take effect January 2021, but there are some hoops to get through before that point.
Next summer, new online gaming laws passed by the Netherlands will be put in force and the KSA will come up with a slate of licensing parameters for any new operators that wish to take part in the country’s state-run system. As a part of this system, any applicants for a new Dutch gaming license will have to have not offered any gaming to the Dutch people for two years prior to the license application. If they have violated this law, then they will be rejected from receiving a license.
This is why the fines against PokerStars are important because it establishes that they were offering gaming to people in the Netherlands in violation of the law. As such, The Stars Group would be unable to apply for a license once the window opens for such actions next year. While the Netherlands isn’t exactly a hotspot for online gaming and poker (roughly 17 million population), in the highly competitive world of online gaming, every customer that you can get – or every customer that you lose – is an important one.