A report from Holland says that Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin is considering allowing people to play poker for money outside the state-owned Holland casinos. A letter sent to Dutch MPs suggests that an increase in the number of poker venues could reduce the incidence of illegal gambling. Recent research has indicated that some 575,000 people – mainly men between the ages of 15 and 34 – play poker illegally.
Politicians appear to be divided on the issue, with non-gambling proponents citing gambling addiction as a reason not to expand gambling opportunity. Others agree that a move to tackle illegal gambling is the way forward. Holland Casinos, under the new proposal, also would be able to add poker tables at existing gambling establishments. The state-owned operator has held a gambling monopoly since 1976 and has sole rights to operate all gambling activity.
Poker players are cautious about the Justice Minister’s idea. Holland Casinos operates 14 casinos around The Netherlands and, according to some, takes too high a percentage from poker games. Many would like to see legal small-scale poker games in local cafes. Last year the Dutch government started a process to grant Holland Casinos an exclusive 3-year contract to operate online poker, a move against EU open trade rules. The Justice Minister also plans to make banks block payments to and from online gambling sites – a measure that the Bankers’ Association calls protectionist. (E-08.05.09)
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