SBC News NOGA: Unnecessary restrictions harm delicate balance of KOA market's channelisation

NOGA: Unnecessary restrictions harm delicate balance of KOA market’s channelisation

Dutch ministers have been urged to recognise the risks of imposing unnecessary restrictions on online gambling consumers, which could impact the channelisation of the KOA market.

The plea was made by NOGA, the Netherlands Online Gambling Association, which published new research by IPSOS on Dutch consumers’ sentiments and engagement with online gambling.

Striking insights were offered by the ‘Online Gambling Barometer 2024’, revealing concerns that consumers will switch to unlicensed operators if they are overburdened by new restrictions.

Of particular note, the headline finding of the Barometer reveals that “nearly half of at-risk gamblers are unwilling to show proof of income to gamble online.”

This response should concern ministers, as the Kamer continues its ongoing regulatory review of the Remote Gambling Act (KOA Act) – the legislative framework adopted in October 2021 to regulate the Netherlands’ online gambling marketplace.

NOGA maintains that the principal objective of KOA reforms should be to reduce the exposure of illegal providers to Dutch consumers. As it stands, the KOA market has upheld its legislative goal “that 80% of players choose legal gambling options and avoid illegal casinos.” This objective has been achieved, with “95% of Dutch online gamblers playing with licensed providers.”

According to NOGA’s director, Peter-Paul de Goeij, “95% is a good percentage, but it also means that around 90,000 Dutch people still gamble at illegal casinos. As many as all residents of Heerlen or Hengelo. It is important to reduce the illegal supply as far as possible.”

However, NOGA stresses that MPs’ concerns should focus on why 90,000 Dutch consumers still choose to gamble on illegal websites. De Goeij warns that stricter legislation may drive risk players, who sometimes lie about their gambling behaviour or bet more money than they intended, to illegal providers. “Stricter measures may be counterproductive here,” he cautions.

The Barometer highlights a critical issue: the difficulty consumers face in distinguishing between legal and illegal gambling platforms. According to the study, 68% of players cannot differentiate between the two. This confusion is exacerbated by the advertising ban on TV, radio, and newspapers, that is due to be extended across digital channels.

De Goeij explained, “Players often have no idea. This is partly due to the advertising ban on TV, radio, and newspapers. If you search on Google, you will immediately end up at dozens of illegal casinos.”

Additionally, the Barometer sheds light on demographic trends in the online gambling market. For the first time, the number of young adults (aged 18 to 34) gambling online has not increased. While there was a rise in the number of risk players among young adults in 2023, the figure remained stable in 2024.

The proportion of Dutch players who are young adults has decreased from 60% to 50%, despite a small overall increase in the total number of online players. This narrow growth is significantly lower than in other European countries, indicating a unique trend within the Dutch market.

Dutch citizens believe that online gambling providers bear the responsibility for preventing and identifying problematic gambling behaviour.

Helma Lodders, Chairman of VNLOK, the trade organisation for Licensed Dutch Online Gaming Providers, asserts, “The protection of players, particularly vulnerable ones such as young adults, is our top priority. Online gambling providers with a licence have an important responsibility to prevent and identify risky or problematic gambling behaviours as much as possible. Taking a chance should be fun and not lead to problems.”

The Online Gambling Barometer, conducted by market research agency Ipsos I&O for the fourth time, provides reliable information and tracks trends in the online gambling market. NOGA, which initiated the Barometer, is now working with VNLOK to ensure the data collected fosters a substantive discussion about the online gambling market in the Netherlands.

As the legislative review continues, it is imperative for ministers to consider these findings carefully. The balance between regulation and protection is delicate, and the unintended consequences of overly stringent measures could undermine the primary goals of the KOA Act. Ensuring that legal providers remain attractive and accessible while curbing the lure of illegal sites will be crucial in safeguarding Dutch consumers and maintaining the integrity of the online gambling market.

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