Dutch betting stakeholders have a potentially tricky year ahead, with new regulations coming in on advertising and the regulator continuing to assess cross-sector duty of care standards.
In a speech at the Gaming in Holland Conference this week, René Jansen, Chair of the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), the Dutch Gambling Authority, emphasised the importance of public opinion in guiding the industry’s direction.
The advertising ban – new ground for all parties
Of the various regulatory pathways for Dutch licence holders to navigate this year, the upcoming ban on ‘untargeted advertising’ is by far the most looming. Jansen noted that many operators have been looking for the KSA for guidance on this.
However, firms might not get much from the regulator if the Chair’s speech is anything to go by, as he explained that the KSA can only provide guidance to a ‘limited’ extent.
Jansen remarked: “Various parts of the new ban are a new and uncharted area for us as well. Like the industry, we will have to find our way in this.”
From 1 July onwards, Dutch operators will be prohibited from ‘untargeted’ advertising of online gambling products. This means all marketing must be directed to groups considered non-vulnerable, most notably adults over the age of 24.
Advertising practices banned under the new regulation include commercials on television, radio, in public spaces such as billboards and in newspapers. Land-based gaming can still be promoted though, and there is some room for continued marketing on social media.
Jansen did inform operators that, as both the regulatory and the companies it oversees will have to adjust to the changes, enforcement will not begin immediately.
In the beginning, we will especially monitor how the new rules work out in actual practice. New or additional insights will be shared with you,” he said.
The main piece of advice the KSA’s Chair had for Dutch bookmakers was that if they have any concerns about the legality of a planned advertisement or campaign, the best solution is simple. That is, not to go ahead with it.
He said: “Licensed operators are at all times the ones responsible for compliance with the regulations, including new rules. ‘Leaning back’ and waiting for further explanations from the regulator can and should never be the intention!
“My most important guidance – and appeal – for today is an old traffic safety advice: “When in doubt, no passing!”
“Let me give you an example. When an operator wonders if his advertising for land-based gambling is sufficiently distinguishing from the advertising for online gambling, he should go one step further and make the advertising different even more.”
Adopting these new rules will take time and effort, Jansen acknowledged, but he asserted that operators should bear in mind that public opinion in the gaming industry is very important.
In the years since the implementation of the KOA Act in October 2021, there has been an unsurprising increase in the number and visibility of gambling adverts.
This has been described as a ‘bombardment’ of advertising by some, prompting Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind to move ahead with the 1 July ban.
“Public confidence in the gambling industry is low and fragile,” Jansen said. “Operators therefore have to show that they are committed to a fair and safe market with player protection as the important standard.”
Duty of care discrepancies but KOA objectives on track
Outside of advertising, Jansen’s other key focus at the Gaming in Holland conference was on duty of care. This is also an area in which the KSA has been highly active over the past year.
In its annual report for 2022, the authority asserted its belief that some operators have not been taking duty of care, or player protection, requirements seriously.
In a blog post back in March 2023, Jansen outlined that the regulator had extended an investigation into operator duty of care after finding several differences in how such policies are implemented by various firms.
Addressing Gaming in Holland, Jansen elaborated further on the investigation: “We now see that even after further investigation it is hard to get a thorough idea of the interpretation of the duty of care obligations by the operators.
“That is not entirely unexpected. For, the open standards in the legislation and regulations allow license holders a lot of room in the execution.
“At the same time, we see here that there are operators seeking the boundaries more than others. Although the law leaves room for interpretation, I call on all operators to use their common sense.”
Offering some guidance, he informed that when a player is being investigated for problematic gambling behaviour or money laundering, the customer’s play should be restricted. Although most operators ‘would say the same’, Jansen added, ‘not every operator actually deals with this in the same way’.
As with advertising, when implementing duty of care and player protection policies, operators need to bear the sector’s public image in mind, Jansen asserted.
Overall, however, the initial objectives of the KOA Act are on track, according to the KSA. Notably, channelisation – the goal of driving players away from unregulated companies to regulated ones – is going well.
Interestingly, Jansen had previously noted that advertising, which the government is trying to curtail, plays a role in achieving this goal in that it promotes the legal offering.
As it stands, 92% of Dutch bettors now play with only licensed firms, and this figure is even higher for new players at 98%. Jansen outlined that the KSA will continue to monitor this after the advertising ban to see if any changes occur.
With the Dutch market expected to grow between 13-15% this year, Jansen had some final words of guidance for the sector: “Licence holders themselves play an important role in the development of the online market in the Netherlands. It requires responsible behaviour of individual operators as well as a joint responsibility of the industry as a whole.
“Forget about the fear that a player might switch to a competitor when thinking about how to interpret and execute your duty of care. Accept the challenge together: when one operator stays on the safe side of the advertising policy, don’t cross the borders yourself to profit from someone else’s prudent policy.”