talked to Mike de Graaff from BetComply about everything related to Dutch gambling legislation. De Graaff was involved in the launch of several legal Dutch online casinos. As a compliance consultant, he provided advice to several gambling companies when they were trying to obtain their license. How did you end up in the world of online gambling?

Mike de Graaff: I started in 2015 in customer service at a company that entered the then unregulated Dutch market, ComeOn .

Just when I was hired and flown in in September 2015, ComeOn withdrew from the Dutch market. Then, instead of working for the Dutch market, I started working for the English market. That went so well that the CEO asked me at the time to create a Risk team for the English market and I did so.

After that I started working for BetClic , which I ended up doing for two years. At BetClic I did risk and compliance management for the regulated markets, i.e. France, Portugal, England, and Poland. In that role I conducted various audits and was involved in permit renewals.

And then the Netherlands came into the picture again.

Then the Dutch market came into view again.

In 2020, I asked the management of BetClic if there was any interest in applying for a license in the Netherlands. There was no such interest at the time.

I then made the choice to start my own business. I started to specialize in the Dutch market, after all, that is kind of a home game for me. As a consultant I started to focus on Dutch permit applications. I ended up doing that for a year and a half, during which time I obtained several permits live.

Now, as owner and Chief Compliance Officer of BetComply , we work not only for the Dutch market, but also for other European and American markets.

Which permit applications were you involved in in the Netherlands?

I assisted Betnation , , Kansino , LeoVegas , and 777 in the permit applications . I also provide a number of parties with advice and introductions.

That sounds quite successful, although I don’t know how many of the rejected permit applications you were involved in, of course. Why did you start BetComply instead of continuing to work as a freelancer?

I can only handle two assignments at the same time when it comes to a permit application. That was already more work for me than I could physically handle.

Moreover, as an independent consultant I could not offer the complete compliance package. I’m really just there for the compliance itself; translate legislation and regulations into policies and procedures and then implement them. I personally have little experience in the field of technical compliance. And I’m not a lawyer either.

At BetComply we now have a team of experts in those areas to assist me. Instead of just helping and implementing the permit application, with BetComply I can now handle a permit application from the first letter to go-live. And that worldwide.

BetComply ‘s team also has cross-border experience, and so do you. How do you compare the procedure and legislation in the Netherlands with that in other countries? I often hear that the Netherlands is very tough.

I understand why that is said. I sometimes joke that Dutch legislation and regulations are a monster made from English and Swedish legislation. A combination of the most stringent components from those areas.

On paper, the legislation is very strict. But – and now I must pay attention to my words – not all established rules are fully adhered to or checked. At least not good enough. As a result, it is currently mainly a paper monster for both the provider side and the government side.

Is that because the market has “only” been open for two and a half years? Will that change in the future?

It largely has to do with the fact that we are still in the early stages. That is of course a difficult position for the Ksa to be in. On the one hand, you want to enforce laws and regulations immediately; As a supervisor, you want to respond immediately if things go wrong. On the other hand, the market does need time. You need data. The Gaming Authority also insists on this; you see that they really want to implement data-driven enforcement. But collecting data, on the basis of which something can really be said, takes time.

I can easily see where rules are not being followed and where you could therefore enforce them. For me, all the other interests and factors do not count, so it is easier for me to judge than for the Gaming Authority itself.

During a Gaming in Holland webinar you said “You cannot tickbox your way into the Dutch gambling market.” But from what I hear and see, it can go a long way. After all, as we have established, everything has to be correct on paper and we will see what happens afterwards.

Yes and no.

The tick boxing I was referring to was mainly in relation to the connection to healthcare. You have obligations to collaborate with experts by experience, addiction care experts and institutions. You see that several parties simply failed in achieving collaboration, because they simply approached it as a tick box. They only saw it as a signature that they needed, but the people involved who had to give this signature did not want that.

Isn’t it normal for some things to go wrong when a market opens? I can imagine that mistakes are made more often during market regulation, or even that there are calculated risks in certain areas.

No, it is not very exceptional what is happening in the Netherlands.

The first year is mainly about gathering market share for the licensed parties. You simply make a risk assessment for yourself as a company. Do I colour neatly within the lines, or do I push the boundaries because I am aiming for market penetration. And if I exceed that, how far will I go to gain X percentage of market share?

The industry also knows that a permit is not immediately withdrawn in the first year. There will more likely be a fine for a provider. In the first two years you often see aggressive parties entering the market that draw up the risk balance differently than others.

You are involved in the policy that is drawn up to obtain the permit. Then everything must be drawn up strictly according to the rules. But once the permit has been received, the companies determine whether they adhere to their own policy.


Let me take the advertising policy of all permit providers as an example. I dare say with certainty that the advertising policy documents of all providers were correct on paper, especially if I was involved. But if you then looked at the practice – what was broadcast – then some simply violated their own policy and the rules and legislation. It looked good on paper, but something went wrong in that implementation.

Therein lies the danger. If, as a provider, you do not sufficiently comply with current laws and regulations, additional laws and regulations will be introduced because politicians believe that the current rules are not sufficient. You saw that, for example, with the advertising policy. I believe that if everyone had complied with the applicable laws and regulations, you would not have seen any new restrictions.

But it did happen, and politicians did intervene.

Too fast. Implementing new restrictions and changing the playing field within a year, I just think that’s too fast. I personally think that if you as a politician are not happy, you should focus on current laws and regulations. They must first check whether this is being properly observed and whether it is being properly monitored. That seems better to me than throwing new legislation on top of it. If there were stricter enforcement of what was already in place, you would have needed fewer additional restrictions.

Initially, there was mainly criticism about the number of gambling advertisements. Rules about this were not explicitly included in the Remote Gambling Act or associated regulations. That was left to the market, which in the eyes of politicians did not implement it properly. What do you think is an area where the regulations were already strict, but not sufficiently monitored?

The balance and carefulness of the content of the advertisements seems to me to be the most important example (Article 2.2 Careful and balanced of the Responsible Gaming Policy , ed.) . That is a very broad policy rule, but in essence it stated that gambling advertisements must be restrained in terms of form, target group, content, scope, number, and type of channels on which the recruitment and advertising activities are shown or offered. Well, they weren’t.

Let me be a little more concrete: the analysis of the addiction risks of games of chance as referred to in Article 7, paragraph 2, of the Decree ( Recruitment, Advertising and Addiction Prevention of Gambling Decree , ed.) . This article says that you must have an analysis carried out on the addiction risk of your product range and that this must be done with scientific substantiation. This analysis indicates which parts of your offering have an extra high risk of addiction. The regulations are then very clear in how the outcome of that analysis should be used: any game and any factor that has an increasing effect on the risk of addiction cannot be strongly advertised (Article 2.6 Alignment of advertising to addiction risk of the Responsible Gaming Policy , ed.) .

Let me give an example. Suppose your analysis shows that video slots carry the highest risk. And that the speed of a game contributes most to a risk. In short, according to that rule, you are not allowed to use video slots in your marketing communications, and you are not allowed to advertise how exciting a game is because it is so fast. It is easy to check whether advertisements meet these requirements or not. So, if you then market to a specific slot, you break that rule there. Or if you promote the Speed Blackjack game for its speed in the marketing campaign, then you are in violation.

I’ll keep my examples general, but hopefully you get what I mean. It seems quite clear to me that those rules have not been properly followed. And that is all existing legislation and regulations; In my opinion, this is not enforced enough. In any case, we have seen that this is not sufficient to prevent new restrictions. That is something we, the industry, have not done well.

Politicians could have taken a better look at what was possible within the current legislation and regulations. And the supervisor could have enforced better. But couldn’t the industry have done something itself? Or should do.

Many people saw this coming and shouted in advance that this was going to happen. You can expect that deluge, they said in advance.

Self-regulation is of course a tool, and it was a bit late in the Netherlands. Maybe we could have started that a little earlier.

On the other hand, I would have hoped that companies would have been more creative in complying with laws and regulations instead of being creative in seeking friction with the authority. I think there are enough bright minds in the field of marketing in the Dutch gaming world to conduct good campaigns within the laws and regulations. Is it lacking in competence or benevolence?

I said that everyone should not just point at the other. But in general terms, I think that other countries can learn from this, because there is a party that could really have prevented this. I think that when you open a market, as a government you should not place too much responsibility on the providers in the field of marketing. For example, can’t we simply maximize the number of TV advertisements per block?

In addition to better and more specific recording in legislation, it would not have been a bad idea if the government had set up a Postbus 51 or SIRE campaign. Informing Dutch consumers about the changes and dangers of what is, on paper, a new sector. The Ksa, the Trimbos Institute and Jellinek could have thought about this.

Once again about that risk analysis on the basis of which providers decide whether colouring within the lines is smart or not. The fact that there were strict restrictions on marketing at the time was especially annoying for parties that had yet to enter the market due to the Postema Motion that was still in force.

I think I understand what you mean. We are specifically talking about the two state holdings. That conversation has been had before and will happen again. In any case, we can say that the state participations were not the best boy in the class in that first phase. In any case, they have not set the example that the Ksa and politicians would have liked to see.

It remains a difficult issue. Because should you expect state-owned companies to set an example, or should they have the right to pursue their commercial interests? That sometimes puts them in a difficult situation. The government is involved both as a regulator and supervisor, and as a shareholder in two companies. That’s a dilemma and I’m glad I’m not in it.

For me personally, it seems to me that as a consumer you can expect that if the government regulates a risky product, that at least the state-owned companies will comply with all laws and regulations. And that was certainly not always the case. Certainly not in terms of advertising. Not in the Cruks area either, and apparently everything went wrong at CDB and payment processing. I think that as a consumer you can be disappointed in the government.

I also find something missing in every public and political discussion about online gambling. No one wants to burn their fingers on the other side of the story. The trade associations are reacting piecemeal and there is no politician who wants to highlight the benefits of a regulated system and a high degree of channelization.

That’s why I really try to advocate that all three of us look at ourselves a little more. Because that’s where you make the most profit. We have a duty of care towards the vulnerable parts of society. Only in this way does society function. But on the other hand, there is still some personal responsibility and freedom.

I always advocate personal responsibility. And by that, I mean all three parties that make up the gaming industry: the player, the provider, and the authority. All three have a role in creating a healthy regulated market.

There are simply unhealthy and harmful factors associated with online gambling. But for me, whether that damage manifests itself depends on all three parties. Does the player take enough responsibility by simply setting limits that make sense? Does the provider actually perform his or her duty of care? And is the authority enforcing it sufficiently or not?

In the media and politics I see that there is a lot of pointing out to others. The parties do not look at what they can do better themselves. I believe that all three still have a lot of work to do to achieve a healthy and mature market.

At BetComply it is our job to make the laws and regulations understandable for providers and developers. We explain the regulations and show how you can technically bring your platform to the desired level. We don’t do the implementation.

There has been talk about overarching playing limits for some time now. This is technically very difficult, the minister initially said. I can’t really imagine that. How do you see that?

The technical argument does not hold water. Casino developers, platform developers, and game developers can develop anything you want. This too, yes. You walk around all those fairs just like me. The ideas and developments slosh against the skirting boards. Everything is possible. So technically that’s easy. The stumbling block will likely lie in privacy legislation.

The question for me is more, should you want that? As a consumer, should you want the government to intervene so far in your freedom of movement? How far should a government go to protect people, while on the other hand you also have to guarantee the freedom of those people? If I go to a club in Rotterdam this weekend and spend €20,000 on champagne, they will arrive with fireworks and beautiful women. Not with a form on which I have to indicate that I can spare €20,000.

So, for me it comes down to an ethical question more than a technical question.

The consultation for playing limits is open. What are your thoughts on that?

I think that having to intervene within an hour will be a stumbling block for operators. If you don’t have a provider such as a Mindway AI or Mentor Live from Neccton, but work with Excel files, for example, then you’re in trouble. You get a huge backlog of players that still need to be checked. You will have to hire employees to keep up and that is a real problem. I think April 1 is way too early to introduce something like this. You have to give operators and platforms the time to develop it and then recertify and implement it. That was not done lightly.

If I look from the consumer’s perspective, I think that €350 for a young adult and €700 for an adult is far too low. Should they have a conversation with me with those kinds of amounts? I wouldn’t expect that myself if we are talking about such low amounts.

I always extend that to the catering industry; If I want to buy a bottle of wine for € 2,000, shouldn’t I be allowed decide that myself?

I think everyone finds the duty of care important, but I think public opinion could change and this could really be seen as harassment. I don’t think this is going to have the effect they think it will.

Betnation’s Country Manager Wouter Niemeijer recently said that 99% will not be bothered by it and that it is no problem to take extra care of that 1%. But you think €700 is too low?

For interventions – really starting a conversation – I think €700 is too low. That one percent you mention includes problem players, but also people who are simply wealthy for whom € 700 a month is not that much. If those people no longer want to play at the legal offer, then you will achieve the opposite of what you want.

On October 1, 2021, 10 parties were allowed to release. There are now more than 20 licensed providers, and a few more may follow. But there is an end to that process. What are you going to do then?

It will indeed come to an end with permit applications in the Netherlands. We notice that there is still interest in permit applications, but those numbers are declining, yes, you are right about that.

Now we see that interest in Germany has blossomed in recent months. And with the changes in Curaçao, we are now receiving many requests for the Isle of Man, among others.

When it comes to the Netherlands itself, we divide our compliance support into three different phases.

The first phase is the permit application itself, where you prepare, describe and test everything. Then you help during construction. We talked about that extensively. The second phase is between submitting and going live. During that time, we draw up working documents, prepare training courses, and help get things ready. The final phase is after go-live. Then the implementation of the policy must be tested and checked. And there is a lot of reporting to do. We are often asked if we can help with this. So, then our work as BetComply shifts more towards a controlling support function.

Is the Dutch market, with all the regulations, still interesting for gambling companies?

You see the reports from permit holders and the supervisor, and you hear the talk in the corridors. This shows that the value of the Dutch player is very high. So even if you only manage to gain a small amount of market share, it is still lucrative percentage points.

If you launch now, you will need to have a Unique Selling Point. I don’t think you can come up with a standard casino offer now. A normal welcome bonus and some media campaigns won’t cut it. You’ll have to be more creative. I just hope to see someone come up with a good idea in the field of technological development. Or that a provider deals with its player base in a completely different way that works better. I hope to see more creativity in compliance and introduce it as a unique feature.


You can read the original untranslated interview at by clicking here.