The Arnhem Court of Appeals has ruled against an appeal regarding internet gambling in Holland. The case originated in 2004, and surrounds an internet café in Hengelo where patrons paid to gamble online. The court’s decision revolves around one simple idea: a computer with an internet connection that accesses an online slot game essentially becomes a slot machine, and because slot machines operating without licenses are not legal, online gambling is not legal.
Between October 2002 and November 2004, the defendant ran an internet café with three computer terminals, and patrons paid for the opportunity to play online casino in the Netherlands. Payments were made in cash to the owner, who then gave the customer a cart loaded with credits, and a pin number to unlock one of the gambling kiosks. Any money won at the games was added to the card, and customers were allowed to cash out at the end of their gambling session. The owner of the internet café was not, however, licensed to offer gambling, and was therefore prosecuted according to Dutch gambling laws.
The website used by the café appears to be hosted in Switzerland, and after the original conviction, appeal was made on the grounds that the owner of the café only provided an opportunity for customers to gamble, without actually operating the casino games himself. According to the judgment, the fact that the computer kiosks were only able to access one website – an online gambling site – makes it clear that the only reason they were in places was to provide online gambling services. The fact that the café owner profited from his clients’’ gambling activity was also a key fact in the case.
What impact, if any, this ruling will have on the future of internet gambling in the Netherlands is unclear. The defendant in this case was fined and imprisoned for providing access to Netherlands-accessible online gambling sites, which sets a disturbing precedent for the future. The Dutch government has hinted at legalizing online gambling sometime in the future, but so far no official word has been offered on the matter.