As the football World Cup approaches, Swedish and Dutch regulators have been cracking down on unlicensed online gambling operators, even though full licensing has yet to launch in either country.
As the world’s biggest betting event opens on Thursday, legal sports betting is also launching in New Jersey and Delaware is primed to offer its first ever bets on the World Cup.
The Dutch Gaming Authority (KSA) said it will be monitoring online gambling websites during the World Cup, looking not only for websites catering to minors, but also those simply pitching to Dutch residents.
The move comes even though Dutch online gambling legislation is stalled, and a licensing regime may not launch until 2020.
Only Toto, part of the Dutch Lottery (Nederlandsloterij), can legally offer sports betting, the KSA says on its website.
“Other online sports betting providers are responsible for ensuring that their offer cannot be seen by Dutch consumers,” a spokesman said. “This can be done, for example, by applying geo blocking.”
Last month the Swedish Gambling Authority warned nearly 40 media sites, including Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet, about offering advertising by unlicensed gambling operators.
Foreign operators will be able to start applying for licences from August 1 for a regime set to take effect January 1. Svenska Spel is currently the only licensed sports betting outlet.
Media groups are not prohibited from advertising gambling, but they are barred from advertising unlicensed gambling, a spokesman for the authority told GamblingCompliance.
That will not change under the new legislation — only the opportunity to apply for a licence changes, he said. Penalties include a fine and up to six months’ imprisonment.
Whether violating warnings in Sweden or the Netherlands will affect an operator’s future application remains to be seen.
Due to the sheer volume of gambling websites, the KSA is focusing mostly on parties that use the Dutch language, typically Dutch symbols, or a website with a dot.NL domain, the spokesman said.
In Sweden, notes to the draft bill warned that a licensing applicant could be judged on previous conduct, including the tone of its marketing.
It remains to be seen if the current marketing activity, which involves hundreds of operators, is counted against any future Swedish licence applicant if the authority asks for “clean hands applications only,” said Ismail Vali, a gambling consultant who formerly worked for PokerStars and NordicBet.
“I would find this unlikely, however, given the open access most operators have had to the Swedish market to date, and the near-saturation advertising availability all betting and gaming firms have had in Sweden over recent years,” he said.
In the US, World Cup betting may be less complicated, even though the US national team did not qualify for the 32-country tournament.
Delaware, one of two only two states that provides legal sports betting as of today, is offering its first-ever World Cup bets, following a June 5 relaunch of sports betting.
Prior to that date, the eastern state was limited to American football parlay wagering, but the recent US Supreme Court decision permitted an expansion to single game bets on all sports.
In New Jersey, William Hill said it will be ready to start taking bets on Thursday at Monmouth Park racetrack. The UK bookmaker is also the risk manager for Delaware’s state lottery and offers betting at 107 outlets in Nevada.
That the US did not qualify for the World Cup probably will not deter Nevada gamblers, but the fact that matches take place in an unfavourable time zone in Russia may have an impact, said Nick Bogdanovich, US director of trading for William Hill.
Germany is the most popular bet, but a win by Mexico would be most costly for the bookmaker, due to the large number of Nevada Hispanics betting on the tournament, he said.
In South America, Colombia is offering bets on its first major international football tournament since online licensing launched last June.
The regulator, Coljuegos, urged residents during the World Cup to use the ten licensed betting sites, which guarantee secure management of data and the ability to set personalised limits.