Dutch stepping up net gambling restrictions

Marcel Luske
Will The Flying Dutchman be singing a sad tune as his homeland restricts online gambling?

The Netherlands seems to be on a collision course with the European Union as news sources report the government is continuing to pursue ways to limit online gambling while at the same time increasing advertising for state-run gambling in the nation.

According to Radio Netherlands, the Netherlands is increasing its efforts against Internet gambling, following in the United States' footsteps by making it illegal for banks and credit card companies to process transactions from Dutch citizens to foreign gambling sites.

The government's argument for the online gambling ban is that it will help curb gambling addiction in the nation.

However, at the same time, the Dutch government is actively increasing spending on advertising state-run gambling.

Charlie McCreevy, EU internal markets commissioner, points out the contradiction in a leaked letter, according to the Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau news service.

The Dutch government has claimed that advertising expenditure for the Lotto lottery has fallen, but figures from research bureau Nielsen Media show that the number of advertisements for the Lotto rose 42% between 2002 and 2004, McCreevy said in the letter.

What the Dutch are doing by preventing access to online gambling is creating a monopoly on the industry in the nation for its state-run company.

McCreevy also pointed out that evidence that the state monopoly on gambling has led to a fall in addiction is questionable, and there is no evidence at all to prove it has reduced gambling-related crime.

Instead, McCreevy believes the Netherlands is pursuing expansion of its state monopoly on gambling. For instance, the state-owned De Lotto and Holland Casino are the only commercial gambling venues in the Netherlands, and the government recently gave Holland Casino exclusive rights to run online gambling as well.

Meanwhile, a number of foreign operators are trying to build casinos in the Netherlands but have been denied licenses.

The European Commission has already criticized Dutch gambling laws. The EU's position is that online gambling is covered by the organization's open market policy.

However, De Volkskrant reported that the Hague says there are no EU-wide laws about gambling and that the Netherlands is within its rights to contravene laws in order to prevent criminal activity and addiction.

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