Winamax, the France-focused online poker and sports-betting operator, has stopped serving customers from the Netherlands. Dutch users were informed of this decision on April 11, and their accounts were immediately locked.
Winamax has elected to cease offering games to players in the Netherlands as it explained in an email, which Twoplustwo user “improvementss” posted to the forums. The opening paragraphs of the email are as follows:
We are contacting you today in regards to your Winamax account.
We have deduced that your postal address and/or bank details registered to your Winamax player account and the IP addresses you are connecting from are located in the Netherlands.
All gaming operators that want to offer their services to players living in the Netherlands must hold a licence issued by the local gambling commission. As Winamax does not hold such a licence, your player account will be permanently closed on Monday, 30th of April 2018.
The only way around the closure of accounts for Netherlands-registered players is to prove residence in another country where Winamax operates legally, complete with a non-Netherlands bank account.
This news was greeted with dismay by Netherlanders who were surprised by the contents of the emails they received as well as the fact that the account suspensions happened immediately with no advance warning. Indeed, several players had active entries in 2-day tournaments and had been anticipating advancing further in these events.
However, the Winamax 2+2 forum rep, “deviate7,” soon revealed the solution to this issue:
He further elaborated that on April 30, all players from the Netherlands would automatically have their real money balances sent to the bank accounts that they had registered with Winamax. This sum will include the face value of all unused tournament tickets, and Miles (Winamax's rewards currency) will be converted to euros at a value of €0.013 apiece.
“deviate7” explained that Winamax was taking this course of action “due to recent changes in legislation.” However, there hasn't been any new legislation passed in the Netherlands related to online poker or gambling.
The legal status of online gaming in the Netherlands is currently unsettled. The Dutch gaming authority, Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), maintains that organizations must hold valid licenses to offer online gambling to Dutch citizens. It bases this belief on its interpretation of archaic laws that date back to before the internet was envisioned. No entity now holds any such license.
However, many of the enforcement activities that KSA has attempted have been thwarted by the courts. In late 2017, a court ruled against this body's efforts to prohibit payment processors from transacting with offshore gambling outfits. Before this, in 2015, a problem gambler in the Netherlands sued Unibet to recoup €178,000 in losses, alleging that the betting firm was operating illegally in the country. The judiciary disagreed, and Unibet didn't have to pay anything.
In general, unlicensed gambling businesses have no fear of providing their services to the Netherlands. It takes the KSA quite a while to mount any serious challenges against them, and the vagaries of Dutch law mean that the decisions quite often end up in favor of the gaming firms.
Given the widespread presence of gray market gambling companies in the Dutch market and the government's relative toothlessness in tackling them, Winamax's decision to bow out may seem mysterious. Yet, there are possible explanations that we can't be certain are applicable in this case but that appear fairly probable.
The KSA isn't happy about the confusing and troublesome legal climate for gambling, and it has been pushing the legislature, the States General, to pass a new law, called the Remote Gambling Act. This would establish a licensing framework for internet gambling, levy taxes on the businesses, and enact a set of rules and regulations. Incidentally, this legislation specifically contains the word “poker” and declares that the game falls within its scope.
According to the draft proposal, the government will have significant leeway in formulating additional rules regarding online gaming licensure. There are hints that they're toying with the creation of a “bad actor” clause that would bar any organization that offered a betting platform in contravention of the law from obtaining a license.
The Act is expected to pass and become law within the next year or so. Winamax may be preemptively leaving the country so that it stands a better chance of being able to return later on with the full permission of the authorities.
Another factor that might be influencing the minds of Winamax execs is the shared player pool that has been formed between France and Spain with Italy and Portugal expected to join in the upcoming months. In order to participate, Winamax has to have the blessing of ARJEL, the French gaming regulator. It's highly likely that removing itself from gray markets like the Netherlands is key to the site staying on the good side of this agency.
Winamax opened its poker room in 2006 on the now-shuttered Ongame Network. In 2010, the company decided to switch over to its own software and continue as a standalone site. Unlike many in the crowded market at that time, it carved out a sizeable niche for itself especially in the regulated French online poker scene.
Traffic at Winamax actually surpassed that of PokerStars in France in 2012, making Winamax one of the few entities to beat 'Stars in any market. However, the crown passed back to PokerStars early in 2018 as it combined its French and Spanish player liquidity, giving further incentive to Winamax to get its own traffic-sharing arrangements in place. Winamax has been courting European customers in other countries besides France for about a year and is right now the seventh-largest destination for online poker in the world.
Expresso Poker Table at Winamax
Winamax has been known to try out innovative experiments from time to time, setting it apart from some of its less creative competitors. For instance, it was the first internet poker location to debut a lottery SNG product, which it called Expresso Poker, in August 2013. This new game type has proven very successful and spawned countless imitators, like Spin and Go at PokerStars, Sit & Go Hero at PartyPoker, and Jackpot Poker at Americas Cardroom.
If your Winamax account was frozen, then you'll be glad to know that there are still quite a few online poker sites that happily accept Dutch residents. Our pick for the best among them is Sportsbetting.ag. When you make your initial deposit, you'll get a 100% up to $2,500 bonus that clears at a speedy 33% rakeback clip. Check out our review of Sportsbetting Poker for further information.