Dutch politicians’ plans for extensive restrictions on betting and gaming advertising have faced criticism from Raad van State (the Council of State), the government’s lead advisory on national policy development.
According to Gaming in Holland – one of the Netherlands’ two gambling trade associations, alongside NOGA – the Council has not questioned the legal tenability of the proposed ban, but instead the reasoning behind it.
Under a roadmap developed by the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection, Franc Weerwind, ‘untargeted advertising’ – meaning blanket advertising accessible to a range of consumer demographics – was due to be phased out this month.
Operators will be unable to advertise via 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.
Critiquing the legislation, Dr. Alan Littler, Gaming Lawyer at Kalff Katz & Franssen, said: “The criticism is not really directed at the restriction itself, but towards the underlying reasoning and explanations given.
“In many instances the Council’s critique is that the explanatory memorandum is potentially confusing and will give rise to a lack of legal certainty. Thus, a first reading would suggest that the Council is telling the Ministry to ‘explain itself better’ rather than calling for a wholesale re-think of the ban.”
On the other hand, some Council of State members have come further, Gaming in Holland explained, such as Bert Bakker, Managing Partner at consultancy firm Meines Holla & Partners.
The Council argued that the evidence to support such a far reaching ban on advertising is currently lacking, as the regulated online market in the Netherlands has only been active for around 15 months.
Since the launch of the KOA marketplace on 1 October 2021, however, some politicians – such as Weerwind – have observed a major upsurge in betting advertising across multiple media channels, fueling calls for restrictions.
Bakker noted: “The Council notes with a certain degree of astonishment that there is no clear and unequivocal quantitative evidence that substantiates the need for such far-reaching restrictions and the resulting curbs on the freedom of expression. Thus, the Minister is asked to do more in order to justify these restrictions.”
As stated above, the ban on non targeted advertising was originally slated to come into force on 1 January 2023, according to initial reports back in July 2022.
The increasing political pressure on the Dutch betting and gaming space prompted René Jensen, Chair of the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), to call on licence holders to refrain from a ‘bombardment of advertising’, as described by politicians, during the World Cup.
However, Bakker’s assessed that due to the current lack of clarity surrounding the planned ban on non-targeted advertising, ‘it would be a miracle if the current proposals could enter into force before April 1’.
“According to the Council of State, too much remains unclear,” he concluded. “The Minister’s texts do not provide sufficient clarity to operators and other market parties, and the Council believes that this must change.
“Not in a subsequent Ministerial Decree, but immediately, in the General Administrative Order and its accompanying explanatory memorandum.”