The Stars Group has been hit with a €400,000 ($438,000) fine by Dutch regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), after PokerStars was found to have been operating in the Netherlands without a license.
According to KSA officials, The Stars Group was allowing Dutch players to access PokerStars.eu despite the fact that it claimed that the Netherlands was a banned jurisdiction.
KSA Probe Finds Multiple Violations
In a probe launched by the KSA in late 2018, investigators found that over a six-week period, 33,000 PokerStars accounts based in the Netherlands processed transactions through the popular Dutch payment processer iDEAL.
The very fact that PokerStars was using iDEAL as a deposit option was seen as evidence that The Stars Group was targeting Dutch players. The PokerStars.eu site also offered Dutch language service and linked to problem gambling programs in the Netherlands.
Since being contacted by the KSA, PokerStars.eu has removed iDEAL from its payment options, and no longer offers Dutch language information. The Stars Group did argue that the fact that they included problem gambling information – something that the KSA recommends for operations – shouldn’t be used against them, as it was a nod towards responsible gambling practices.
The Stars Group is hardly the first operator to get hit by a fine from the KSA, as Dutch authorities are moving towards regulating its online gambling industry in 2021. Major companies like Unibet, Casino.com, and 1xbet have all received fines of €400k or more, while others such as GVC, William Hill, and Betsson have received smaller penalties.
Regulatory Issues Mount for Stars Group
The problems for The Stars Group and other operators who have been fined by the KSA go beyond financial penalties. Because of a two-year “cooling off period” proposed by the Dutch government, any operator who has been found to have actively taken Dutch customers without licensing or other permission will have to wait at least two years before applying for a gaming license in the country, something that means PokerStars and other major sites may not be able to get into the lucrative market for some time.
Those issues could increase the regulatory problems for PokerStars, which has already had to leave other markets, such as Switzerland, due to legal changes in those jurisdictions. While the site may eventually be able to get back into all of those markets, its issues in the United States after UIGEA have shown that this process isn’t also quick or simple.
Regulatory issues such as these have clearly hit the bottom line for The Stars Group. Last week, the company announced that it would be cutting some jobs from its offices on the Isle of Man, where the firm is headquartered. In the announcement, Stars cited “disruptions in our key markets” as part of the “headwinds” that had caused a drop in revenue. The Isle of Man Today reported that up to 80 jobs could be lost on the island over the next two years.