There is mixed news from Europe on the online gambling front. Czech players have finally something to cheer about. Whereas for the Dutch things only seem to be getting worse.
In December 2008 the Czech Ministry of Finance had allowed five of the largest land based bookmakers in the country to operate Internet gambling sites for the first time. The online operations could be started anytime after the 5th of January 2009. These operators were Sazka, Fortuna, Chance, Synot Tip and TipSport. The issue of these licenses is a part of a broader reform of the Czech gambling market that the government is contemplating. Now, two of the bookmakers have already set up Internet gambling operations. Fortuna was the first operator to go online. It was followed by Sazka.
These licenses from the Czech government did not come easily. They were preceded by years of intense lobbying by these operators. And the licenses are subject to considerable government control and regulation. In the first place the licenses were issued to these five bookmakers after a thorough vetting of their operations. The Czech government has imposed a condition for the online gamblers not heard of anywhere before. The gamblers cannot register online. They have to appear in person and provide proof of identity, age and residence before they are allowed to access the online gambling web sites. The online gaming operators cannot provide third party access, have to locate their servers within the Czech Republic and have to arrange for an audit for the fairness of the software by a recognized and independent agency. The licensees will have to pay the stipulated administrative and state supervision fees and will have to earmark a percentage of their income for charity. The operations will be covered by the Gaming Act and will have to meet the European Responsible Gaming Standards.
In the Netherlands the standoff between the online gaming operators and the government has worsened. The online gaming operators that were catering to Dutch customers have refused to voluntarily close down as asked by the government. The Remote Gambling Association and the European Union were not able to convince the Dutch Government to withdraw its order. The Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has now informed the Members of Parliament that he will be initiating legal action. Ballin has also contacted the bigger banks that are operating in the Netherlands and warned them that it is illegal for them to have online gambling sites as customers. The Justice Ministry has refused to reveal how many online gambling sites it was going to act against but said that both Dutch and foreign companies were involved.