The online gaming bill under consideration by legislators in the Netherlands has hit a new snag. According to news reports, members of the ruling parliamentary coalition have introduced amendments to the proposed Remote Gaming Bill to tax online poker operators at 29 percent of gross gaming revenue, up from the earlier 20 percent.
The tax rate now proposed for online poker operators brings it at par with the tax rate for land-based casino operators (29 percent) in Netherlands. The government had earlier defended lower rates for online sites saying that it was necessary to make it attractive for players to choose Dutch-licensed online poker sites rather than switching over to unlicensed poker websites or international poker websites that offer lower tax rates.
The online gaming bill has been under discussion for many years but has seen very slow progress. Although it is currently illegal to gamble online in the Netherlands, its online gambling market is much bigger than what the analysts had earlier predicted. A survey carried out by Motivaction on behalf of state-owned land-based casino operator Holland Casino has indicated that as many as 1.5m Dutch adults gamble online and spend an average of €26 per month totaling to an annual spend of around €500 million. Previous studies had suggested the market was estimated to be around €300 million per year.
This amendment to the online gambling tax laws has been submitted by the two ruling coalition parties — the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Labour Party (PvdA). Netherland’s current Prime Minster, Mark Rutte, belongs to VVD and the signs suggest that the new proposal is likely to be seriously considered in the coming months.
Criticized widely, many believe that higher tax regime for online operators could hamper the objective of moving 80 percent of current online gambling traffic to licensed Dutch operators.
In a statement, Eric Konings, the Unibet sports betting integrity officer said,
Consumer protection is the key objective of the whole re-regulation process, and we’re afraid that this amendment pushes the consumer towards not locally-regulated products.
Lower tax rates for online gambling was however vehemently opposed by land-based casino operators, with the European Amusement and Gaming Federation (EUROMAT) and its Netherlands member VAN Kansspelen Branche-organisatie filing a complaint with the European Union Court of Justice (CJEU) over unfair treatment since the land base casinos had a higher tax rate.
There are now suggestions calling for a compromise between the two rates at either 24 or 25 percent. The Remote Gaming Bill is expected to be put to vote sometime during first quarter of 2016 in the legislature’s lower house, the Tweede Kamer.