The government of the Netherlands is planning a complete review of its policies regarding all forms of gaming. Casinos, lotteries and online gaming will all be considered, starting in March.
Following a debate in the Lower House in late January, Assistant Secretary of Finance Frans Weekers said he favors privatization for the currently state-owned Holland Casino organization.
“We are going to look at privatization,” said Weekers, according to Dutch newspaper Telegraaf. “There is no taboo against it.”
Among the questions to which Weekers will seek answers is whether Holland Casino and its 14 properties should be carved up and sold to multiple buyers, or if new competitors should be admitted to the market.
In either case, a casino license would come with strict conditions with regard to combating compulsive gambling and money laundering. Heavy penalties are expected for those who fail to honor those conditions.
Holland Casino was established as a state-owned gaming operator in the mid-1970s. The objective of the government was to offer a safe and honest alternative to the hundreds of small, unregulated casinos then in operation throughout the country.
To accomplish that mission, Holland Casino management has sought to create attractive and entertaining properties, employing aggressive marketing campaigns to steer the public toward its product and away from the gray-market venues. Ironically, the success of that tactic has led to accusations that a state-owned company is now a net promoter of gambling.
Backers of the plan to privatize the casino sector are the pro-business parties VVD and CDA, but also the more liberal D66 and, perhaps surprisingly, the Greens. Together they occupy 72 of the 150 seats in the Lower House: VVD 31, CDA 21, D66 10 and Greens 10.
The previous coalition government, formed by the CDA, pro-labor PvdA and more centrist CU, strongly opposed privatization of Holland Casino. Then-Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin took the position that having casino gaming in the hands of a state-owned monopoly is the best way to combat compulsive gambling. At present, the PvdA holds 30 seats and the CU only five.
In 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available, Holland Casino had GGR of €595.6 million, considerably down on 2008 revenue of €700.1 million. Of the €427.1 million in operating expenses, 62 percent went to costs for the 4,323 full- and part-time employees, whose combined hours are the equivalent of 3,404 full-time positions. The state-owned company paid €154.2 million in taxes.