A cross-party group of Dutch MPs has questioned two Ministers with oversight on betting and gaming over the sector’s potential impact on young people.
Questions were submitted by Mirjam Bikker of the Christian Union, with co-initiations from Michel van Nispen of the Socialist Party, Kees van der Staaij of the Political Reformed Party and Songül Mutluer of the Labour Party.
One of the Minister’s being questioned, meanwhile, was Franc Weerwind, the Legal Protections Minister, who has been a key figure in pushing ahead with marketing and advertising restrictions on Dutch gambling.
The MPs asked 10 questions in total; although the Minister’s answers to them have not yet been made public, they showcase the extent to which the political spotlight has fallen on gambling advertising in the Netherlands.
A proposal suggested by the MPs which could have deep implications for Dutch gambling was a ‘two-strikes-you’re-out model’, as Minister’s were questioned: “When is it enough as far as the cabinet is concerned?”
This would see operators that repeatedly reach young people through ads or poor age verification temporarily or permanently stripped of their licence.
Under existing advertising legislation, Dutch operators are prohibited from engaging in ‘untargeted advertising’, meaning that any marketing material must be ‘targeted’ to people over the age of 24.
Enforcing this requirement, the Dutch Gambling Authority, the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), has issued two fines of late, against JOI Gaming – trading as Jacks.nl – and TOTO Online.
The operators were charged €400,000 each after being found to have sent promotional messages to their entire user-base, including those under the established advertising age limit.
Citing these cases in their questions, the MPs asserted that more could be done to prevent licence breaches on advertising, saying: “If not, how do you show the gambling industry that enough is enough?”
After the KOA Act launched a regulated online betting market in the Netherlands in October 2021, there has been a major upsurge in gambling advertising, which has been noted by some politicians.
It is true that marketing spend among Dutch licence holders has increased in the 16 months since the KOA Act – in December 2021 alone the figure stood at €23m, spent by the then 11 licenced operators in the country.
Since then, the market has continued to grow with a total of 20 firms now active in the market, and concerns have been raised about a ‘bombardment’ of advertising.
These fears were particularly prevalent during the World Cup, with the KSA cautioning operators to avoid extensive marketing, citing potential political backlash.
In response to said concerns around advertising, Franc Weerwind has pushed forward with a ban on all forms of ‘untargeted advertising’, which was due to be rolled out in January.
This would prevent operators from advertising on television, radio or in public indoor or outdoor spaces, with enhanced requirements added for online marketing, whilst sports sponsorships are set to be banned by the end of 2025.
On this topic, the final question asked of Weerwind by the five MPs was – “What point will the ban on gambling advertising finally come into effect?”
As it stands, some commentators have argued that the ban is still some way off being fully implemented, partly due to a lack of clarity and evidence, as the Dutch online market is still young.
Last month, Bert Bakker, Managing Partner at consultancy firm Meines Holla & Partners and a member of the Raad van State (the Council of State), said ‘it would be a miracle if the current proposals could enter into force before April 1’.
Industry trade body Gaming in Holland assessed that the Council of State was critical of the ban not because of its legality but because of the reasoning behind it.