Dutch Regulator Comes Up Short In Bid To Penalise Payment Processor

CURO Payments took its case all the way to the top administrative court to assert its rights

As Dutch lawmakers continued their glacial progress towards a regulated and licensed online gambling industry this week (see previous InfoPowa reports) the national regulator reported an important judicial decision restraining its efforts to penalise payment processors servicing illegal unlicensed operators.

Kansspelautoriteit took on CURO Payments in the case, and achieved some success last November when the Oost-Brabant Court supported its right to go after payment processors.

CURO appealed to the Dutch Council of State – the nation’s highest administrative Court – which reversed that decision, ending a two-year legal tussle by ruling that the regulator’s legal argument had no merit.

Kansspelautoriteit’s rather tenuous contention was that payment service providers participate in the promotion of illegal online gambling services to Dutch players.

In a notification regarding the case on its website this week, Kansspelautoriteit acknowledged the judgement, the fact that it may not be appealed and expressed its disappointment. The court’s decision not to empower it to penalise payment processors has restricted its enforcement options, the regulator noted, making it more difficult to ensure a safe and legal gambling environment.

The Council of State decision raises interesting questions for other payment processors which Kansspelautoriteit warned off at the same time as its action against CURO, and they will presumably be studying the judgement carefully.

The regulator clearly had in mind an initiative to disrupt player transactions with unlicensed operators in the Dutch market, which still regards online gambling and its promotion as generally illegal pending the implementation of the much delayed licensing and regulatory legislation in the Netherlands.

That is now expected in 2019 after over a decade of political back-and-forth.

The regulator’s notification also included the interesting view that under current Dutch law it cannot collect fines from unlicensed operators, which surely hampers enforcement efforts.