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Dutch gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has issued a fine to Malta-licensed Shark77 for operating in the Netherlands without the relevant licence.

Shark77, which is also based in Malta, was ordered to pay €900,000 for offering games of chance in the country. This is deemed illegal under the Betting and Gaming Act if the operator does not hold the required approval.

KSA first investigated Shark77 in December of 2021 and followed up with further probes in January and February of last year, discovering that the operator was offering both sports betting and online casino games on its 18bet.com website.

The regulator said that no technical measures in place to stop Dutch players from accessing these offerings. The site was accessible via a Dutch IP, while the Netherlands was offered as a player’s country when registering for an account.

After being contacted by KSA, Shark77 responded by denying it was intentionally targeting the Dutch market, adding that it was offering games in accordance with the licence it was issued by the Malta Gaming Authority and that KSA should not impose a fine.

However, KSA said Shark77 had breached Dutch rules by offering games and that even though it held a licence in Malta, this was not enough for it to allow Dutch customers to access its gaming and was then operating in the country illegally.

KSA also reiterated the lack of procedures in place to stop Dutch players from accessing the website, adding that users were able to deposit and withdraw directly from a Dutch bank account.

As such, KSA said Shark77’s counter arguments did not hold up and there was no reason to waive a fine. The KSA ordered the operator to pay the €900,000 in full.

“A licensed provider of online games of chance has costs that illegal providers of online games of chance do not have to incur. In addition, illegal providers do not pay any tax in the Netherlands and are not restricted in the conduct of their business by the strict rules of the Betting and Gaming Act and the associated licensing regulations. This allows illegal providers to offer a different offer, for example by offering games of chance that are prohibited for licence holders,” KSA said.

“These providers can thus have an attractive effect on players and jeopardise the channelling to the legal offer. We consider this serious and highly undesirable. Dutch players deserve the good protection of providers with a licence from the Gaming Authority,” KSA chairman René Jansen said.