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Dutch minister says self-regulation won’t work with gambling ads

Kansspelautoriteit

The Netherlands’ minister for legal protection, Franc Weerwind, stated on Tuesday that industry self-regulatory measures via trade associations did not have a significant effect on gambling advertising.

In response to the questions issued by members of parliament, Weerwind stated that the government was on the right track with the blanket gambling advertising ban, and further regulations needed to be implemented.

Weerwind asserted that while self-regulation was essential to limiting gambling harm, it was not enough to restrict gambling advertising. The minister linked this to the gaming operators that have no obligations to the self-imposed regulations.

A number of smaller businesses also do not act in agreement with the trade body’s regulations and advertise without adhering to the limit. Due to this, gambling ads are still commonplace in the country despite the industry’s internal efforts to restrict outdoor advertising.

Weerwind emphasized the importance of ensuring all parties adhered to the restriction. He also stated that the Recruitment, Advertising, and Addiction Prevention of Games of Chance Decree needed strengthening. The decree was behind provisions of the Remote Gaming Act (KOA), which governs gambling activities in the Netherlands.

The country is currently on its way to an ‘untargeted’ gambling advertising ban which will take effect on July 1, 2023. The measure will prohibit gambling operators from airing advertisements on television and radio in addition to other mediums where vulnerable parties like children can see them. The Netherlands also intends to ban gambling sponsorships in sports in the next few years.

Although the minister supports banning ads, he acknowledged the importance of ensuring gamblers are aware of regulated local operators. Italy previously adopted a total gambling ad ban and, in the process, accidentally sent gamblers to black market operators.

The Netherlands hopes to shield these vulnerable parties by making the ban focus on only untargeted advertisements. Weerwind pointed out that a level of advertising was needed to give people a safe and legal environment to gamble in.

“With regard to advertising, it is, therefore, necessary to strike a balance between the protection of vulnerable groups and the importance of channeling it towards a legal offer,” Weerwind asserted.

“That is why I closely monitor developments in the field of remote games of chance.”

The ban on unregulated gambling was initially set for January 1, 2023; however, the measure was pushed back to February or March this year before July 1 was finally established as the official date.

Concerning the reason for the continuous delay, Weerwind said that there were several points in the initial text that needed more attention. This includes identifying the difference between targeted and untargeted advertising, and listing what operators were expected to do and what they were to refrain from.

The Netherlands intends to continue banning other forms of gambling advertising considered dangerous, like sports and TV sponsorships. The TV sponsorship ban is expected 12 months after the government implements the prohibition of untargeted ads.

The sports sponsorship ban will follow a year later, giving both sports teams and TV channels enough time to prepare.

Due to the Netherlands’ strict attitude towards gambling regulation, there have been suggestions for a two-strikes-and-out model, which would suspend an operator’s license after two violations.

The proposal was, however, opposed by Weerwind, who stated that introducing disproportionate penalties would not have any significant effect on licensees. He also pointed out that over-regulating could weaken the relationship between gambling operators and regulators and possibly redirect punters to the black market.

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