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Kindred Group CEO Nils Andén speaks to NEXT.io on the company’s post-acquisition strategy, legal risk, and increased regulatory tightening in the industry.

NEXT: A Dutch court recently ruled PokerStars and Bwin must repay historic grey market era losses to some customers, in line with similar cases in Germany and Austria. How are you modelling the risk here?

NA: First and foremost, it’s a very different legal basis in the Netherlands compared to Germany and Austria – so I think it’s a different beast altogether. And then it’s very hard for us to comment on court cases that we haven’t been involved in. We have our own ongoing cases related to before the local licence system was put in place.

But I think it’s fair to say that they are different than the recent verdicts we’ve seen from PokerStars and Bwin, so I think we’re fairly confident in our position, and also our position prior to the licence system coming into place.

For us, we just want to go through the process for ourselves and wait and see what the overall conclusion will be on this.

NEXT: How is Kindred’s Journey Towards Zero project doing in the wake of a slight uptick in harmful gambling revenue?

NA: It’s progressing well – and I think we want to reiterate what we’ve said previously: that over the last couple of years we have seen a downward trend.

Getting towards zero, or closer to zero, it’s going to be very hard for us to do that alone. We will continue to work and try to minimise that number of course, but the initiatives that will really move the needle is industry wide actions and continued conversations with regulators and operators to set the fundamentals in place for the whole market to drive towards zero.

I think mathematical zero will always be impossible, because we get new customers that we don’t have enough data on and we might have to flag them after three weeks or one month of gameplay.

NEXT: Have you spoken to FDJ about what Kindred’s strategy will be post-acquisition?

NA: The only information we have so far is, as part of their bid announcement, they called out some of the strategic initiatives that we launched last year, which they were very pleased about – which were around cost control, around exiting North America and around focusing on locally regulated market growth.

I don’t think anything material will most likely change in that aspect. Given that we are currently in a process where antitrust bodies, especially in France, are looking at our businesses, we are still very much two separate businesses and have to remain so until closing.

NEXT: Recently the Dutch House of Representatives voted to ban high-risk games such as slots. While the change has not been approved, how do you generally view your position in the Dutch market in a context of increased regulatory tightening?

NA: The sentiment around our industry in Netherlands is definitely not positive. It’s a tough one. For me, it’s really about engaging in discussions with policymakers in the Netherlands to reiterate what was the main ambition of the gambling reform.

Basically the two main things are around channelisation – ensuring that as much of the market or the gambling that happens in Netherlands happens within the licensed market. And similarly, ensuring a high level of customer protection.

If it would be the case that one particular product will be banned from the market, we know from other markets what that means. That those players that enjoy those kinds of games will go to the offshore market and the black market, and channelisation will go down.

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