PokerStars Fined €400K For Serving Dutch Players Without License
The Stars Group (TSG) which is the parent company of PokerStars, the biggest online poker website in the world has been slapped with a €400,000 fine for serving Dutch customers without a gambling license.
The order was issued by the Netherlands’ Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), the country’s gambling regulator, after it found that TSG’s flagship brand PokerStars allowed Dutch customers to gamble on the site without obtaining a gambling license. The imposition of the fine comes less than two years before the Netherlands launches its own liberalized online gambling regime.
A probe launched by the KSA in the second half of 2018 found that the PokerStars.eu client was accessible from a Dutch IP address even though the operator had the Netherlands on its list of banned jurisdictions. Furthermore, PokerStars utilized iDeal, a leading Dutch online payment method, as a payment option and served local customers using the Dutch language.
Almost 225,000 transactions with iDeal were traced to 33,000 PokerStars.eu accounts based in the Netherlands. The transactions had been processed just within a six-week period last summer. KSA immediately interacted with PokerStars.eu, and the site has since removed iDeal as one of its payment processors and also got rid of its Dutch-language contact form after learning about the probe.
The regulator discovered more violations committed by PokerStars.eu, such as displaying links to two Dutch problem gambling programs, more proof that the site was indeed serving local punters. TSG however defended their actions and said the information was made available on the site in accordance with KSA’s rules. The company said it’s regrettable that it’s now being used against them.
TSG Will Most Likely Not Get License
Several other online gambling operators have already been penalised for serving Dutch customers without proper authorisation. In December 2018, the KSA also imposed a €300,000 fine on UK-listed bookmaker William Hill for catering to local gamblers without permission.
The Netherlands’ liberalised online gambling regime will likely go live on January 1, 2021. The government will begin accepting license applications in July 2020. As a result of the sanction, TSG will be unlikely to obtain a local gambling license for two years as part of a cooling period imposed by the Dutch government on erring operators.
Industry rivals have been quick to leverage this penalty against TSG, with 888 Holdings emphasising that their compliance with the Dutch law will give them an edge against their competitors. It remains to be seen whether TSG will appeal the KSA’s ruling.