Betting in the Netherlands

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Residents of the Netherlands enjoy a wide range of betting options, from wagering on sports and horse racing to lotteries, casino table games and slot arcades. Although the European Union has frequently protested the practice, the Dutch government controls a tight monopoly on the local gambling scene.

In 1726, the Nederlandse Staatsloterij was established, making it the world’s oldest continuing state lottery. A general prohibition on all other lotteries was enacted in 1848, followed by a ban on all other forms of gaming in 1911. It was not until 1961 that an amendment was made to the Lottery Act, which legalised sports betting (football pools) as a second form of state monopoly.

Three years later, the New Gaming Act replaced the original statutes and added betting on horse races to the list of allowable activities through a centrally regulated totalisator. Lotto and casino games were given monopoly status in 1974, leading in October to the opening of the first Dutch casino in the city of Zandvoort.

By 1986, the gradual legalisation of gambling activities reached its peak with permission granted for the commercial operation of cash pay out slot machines in bars and arcades. Instant lotteries were deemed a monopoly in 1994.

Licensing and regulation of all these forms of gambling requires the cooperation of five government institutions at the national level—the departments of Justice, Economic Affairs, Finance, Agriculture, and Public Health, Welfare and Sports. In 1996, a single independent advisory body was formed to aid in the process: The College van Toezicht op de Kansspelen, or Netherlands Gaming Control Board.

Even though the Board has no coercive or compulsory powers, its mission is to control the nation’s six legal monopolies (state lottery; instant lottery, sports betting, horse betting, lotto and casino games) along with three charitable lotteries (bank giro, postcode and sponsor bingo). It advises the various departments on issuance, alteration and withdrawal of licenses for the monopolies as well as how to interpret local laws.

Best-known among the monopolies in the Netherlands is Holland Casino. It directly operates the state lottery and more than a dozen casinos around the country. It also oversees so-called “fair play centers,” which are casinos under sub-license.

In total, there are currently 92 gaming venues in the Netherlands, including five casinos apiece in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, plus three each in Groningen, Nijmegen and Valkenburg. The Hague, where the International Court of Justice is located, has two.

Racecourses can also be found in Groningen, Wasenaar, Wolvega and Alkmaar, where trotting is especially popular. All horse race wagering and online pari-mutuel betting in Holland is run by Scientific Games Racing B.V. as the state’s sanctioned monopoly.

The sports betting monopoly is operated by a company called De Lotto. Traditional bookmaking markets are offered at its betting shops. However, with the exception of football, which has a strong fan base among the Dutch, betting on sports is not as popular in the Netherlands as it is in most European countries.

It follows that online sportsbooks have never been a major contributor to state gambling revenues either. In fact, the government has tried in vain over the years to ban Dutch gamblers from placing bets online. In 2010, when online poker was given the go ahead, sports betting online was blocked. At one point, local banks were told to stop processing transactions to and from sites based outside the country.

Nevertheless, many Dutch citizens continue to wager online. No fewer than 457 sports betting sites accept play from the Netherlands, including 15 Dutch-language sites. Among the latter are Unibet, Expekt, PKR Sportsbook, bwin Sportsbook, Stan James and Betsson, to name a few of the major ones. The Euro is the primary currency used for betting.