Resignation of Justice Secretary may delay Dutch iGaming regulation

11th March 2015 6:51 am GMT

Dutch Secretary of State Fred Teeven has resigned over his involvement in a compensation payment to a convicted drug dealer fifteen years ago, a move that could delay the planned introduction of iGaming legislation in the country later this year.

Teeven tendered his resignation to King Willem-Alexander alongside Minister for Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten.

The King’s Office confirmed that both have been honourably discharged from their responsibilities on the recommendation of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

As a result it is likely that there will be some delays in the parliamentary process required for the passage of the Dutch Remote Gambling Act. The Secretary of State was due to issue responses to a number of technical questions submitted by members of the Dutch parliament this week, and it is unclear whether this will go ahead until a successor is appointed.

As a result, Jan-Rutger Hebben, director of Dutch iGaming association Sichting Speel Verantwoord (SSV), said there was likely to be a delay of "at least a few weeks" to the bill coming into law.

“There will of course be delays – that is quite logical because they now need to find a new Secretary of State and Minister of Justice,” Lawyer Justin Franssen of Kalff Katz and Franssen commented. “[The selection of Teeven and Opstelten’s replacements] is due to take place most likely after the provincial elections after March 18th, so things will progress more slowly.”

“On the other hand the remote gaming legislation is part of a coalition government agreement so that has not changed,” he added. “There will be delays but they are not going to step away from the plans.”

The pair have stepped down due to their involvement in a case dating back to 2001, when money seized from a drug dealer known as Cees Helman was returned to the man. The payment was made after Dutch authorities were unable to prove that money they had confiscated from Helman had been obtained illegally.

Minister Opstelten had allegedly mislead Parliament over the amount of compensation paid to the convicted drug trafficker. Minister Teeven, then serving as Attorney General, had struck the deal which saw 4.7m Guilders (€2.4m) returned to the individual via an account in Luxembourg, without the tax authorities being notified.

Opstelten had previously claimed that the payment details had been lost, but announced his resignation Tuesday after a record of the transaction was found by the Ministry. The payment was not illegal but both ministers said the misinformation had made their positions untenable.

The resignations are likely to be a severe blow to the Liberal party as it prepares for the country's upcoming provincial elections.

In his role, Teeven acted as the architect of iGaming legislation, which set a 20 per cent gross gaming tax for licensed iGaming operators, and will award companies five-year licences. The Dutch Remote Gambling Act had been expected to come into force on January 1st, but the country’s regulator, the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), is yet to open a licensing window to assess applications.

The KSA said that it was unclear whether the resignations would impact the opening of the market.

"What the effect is on the gaming legislation is up to the Ministry," a spokesman for the KSA told Gaming Intelligence. "It is responsible for the process with the Parliament."

However Hebben said that he was not expecting any changes to the content of the gambling act, with the majority of queries submitted by MPs largely looking for clarification on technical aspects of the bill, rather than pushing for changes.

Franssen, on the other hand, said that there was a possibility that the new ministers would look to put their stamp on legislation.

“What is possible is that a new Minister of Justice could add some small personal touches to the legisation when they are reviewing the documentation,” he said.

“Teeven was very much behind this legislation and it remains to be seen whether a new Secretary of State or Minister of Justice will have the same feelings,” Franssen added.

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