The Netherlands Gaming Authority (KSA) has requested legislative amendments from the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection, Franc Weerwind, to grant its officers expanded rights for the use and creation of false IDs during investigations.

In a letter addressed to Weerwind (pictured), who is currently responsible for evaluating the Dutch gambling laws, the KSA has requested modifications to the law to allow access to “false identity documents for enforcement and supervision purposes”.

Currently, the National Identity Agency handles the processing of fake IDs, while the KSA requires legal authorisation to utilise them.

The KSA argued that the IDs must be replaced regularly to prevent online gambling providers from recognising their staff members.

Therefore, the KSA demanded a change in the law so that the KSA “can obtain the identity data required to access the websites of providers” to monitor the legal supply more effectively and efficiently.

The KSA’s actions have recently been at the centre of attention after its officers allegedly gained access to a Videoslots website by posing as a German consumer.

As a result, the Malta-based company has been hit with a penalty of nearly €10m, which it stated it will appeal.

Other proposed changes

Additionally, the KSA has suggested that it would be given direct access to the Control Database of online gambling licence holders for market analysis.

Currently, the KSA can only use this data for supervision and enforcement, not for analysis and research.

By amending the law, the KSA said it aims to establish a factual basis for setting priorities, enforcement and policy-making.

Moreover, the KSA has highlighted that the “involuntary registration” option of the Central Register of Exclusion from Games of Chance (Cruks) is currently underutilised.

This option allows third-parties such as family members, co-workers and even operators, to exclude players once they notice indicators of gambling-related harm and can provide proof.

However, the KSA said only a small number of individuals are currently involuntarily registered. As a result, its effectiveness in combating gambling addiction is questionable.

The regulator also stated that the procedure for the involuntary registration of players is overly complex and that the six-month period for players to deregister is too short.

Lastly, the KSA has pointed out that the legislation governing slot machines is outdated and no longer aligned with current regulations and technological advancements.

The regulator recommends revising this legislation to bring it in line with the regulations for online games of chance.

Licensed operators in the Netherlands could face more regulatory headwinds before the end of the year with loss limits increasingly likely to be introduced.

In a letter dated 1 June 2023, Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind revealed that potential playing limits would be a major focus in the coming months in a move to prevent gambling addiction.

Weerwind has already delivered legislation to ban above-the-line gambling advertising in the Netherlands from 1 July and he is now the driving force behind further restrictions.

The letter “extensively discusses” the development of further rules in the field of playing limits, including the possibility of an upper limit for licensed operators to adhere to.

Draft regulation on this topic was originally expected by mid-2023. This has now been postponed until the end of 2023 as more research is required, according to Weerwind, with two in-depth studies ongoing.

“The exploration that has been carried out for this shows that in-depth research is needed to arrive at effective measures,” wrote Weerwind.

“This goes beyond just setting a limit. The drafting of regulations will take more time pending the results of these studies and I expect to have the outlines ready by the end of 2023,” he added.

The Minister revealed that discussions on this topic have been held with both Dutch and foreign scientists, while a literature study has also been carried out.

“It has become clear to me that separate measures such as only an upper limit for playing limits are insufficiently effective to prevent excessive gambling behaviour.”
Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind

“From this it has become clear to me that separate measures such as only an upper limit for playing limits are insufficiently effective to prevent excessive gaming behaviour,” Weerwind continued.

“Additional preventive measures are necessary for an effective approach. With this in mind, I want to do more and develop a broad package of measures that can be introduced in a relatively short period of time,” he added.

Improving the country’s national self-exclusion register Cruks will also be a key area of focus for both the government and the gambling regulator (KSA) for the remainder of this year.

The letter was penned to provide an update on the country’s regulated online gambling market after more than a year and a half in operation.

It was also sent to the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Weerwind’s writing included the latest channelisation estimate from the KSA, which now stands at 92%. This means that nine in every 10 players have opted to play in the regulated market.

In full-year 2022, the KSA dealt with seven unlicensed operators with fines totalling €29m.

In addition, five orders subject to periodic penalty payments were imposed, while providers in a further 40 cases adjusted their behaviour under the threat of sanctions.

The full letter can be accessed here.

Starting from 1 July 2023, iGaming operators in the Netherlands will be prohibited from advertising on TV, radio, and in public spaces, both indoor and outdoor.

The ban will also apply to sports sponsorships from July 2025.

The new law specifically targets advertising for online games of chance. The purpose of the ban is to protect young people under 24 and other vulnerable groups from gambling-related harm.

Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind first proposed the ban in July 2022.

The ban was originally scheduled to be implemented from 1 January 2023, but was delayed by several months due to the time required to process public consultation responses on the changes.

Rise in gambling ads after market launch

The Ministry of Justice and Security stressed the decision was made to ban above-the-line marketing of games of chance due to a significant increase in gambling advertising after the opening of the regulated market in October 2021.

The government said studies it has conducted have since proved that the risk of addiction is higher in online gambling than in land-based variants due to several factors, such as the lack of direct contact between the player and the provider and the immediate availability of the games.

Transitional period for sport sponsorships

Sports sponsorship agreements, including the sponsorship of athletes and teams, as well as clubs, competitions, shirts, and other materials, will have a transitional period of two years.

The government acknowledged that “a ban on sponsorship has far-reaching financial implications for sport”.

For this reason, clubs are given more time to fulfil existing agreements and to look for new commercial partners.

Existing agreements for all other forms of sponsorship, including TV programmes and events, will have a one-year transitional period.

Furthermore, advertising for so-called less risky games of chance, such as lotteries, will not be allowed between 6am and 7pm.

Ads for high-risk games of chance, meanwhile, can only be broadcast after 9pm. This includes promotions for retail and online sports betting, as well as land-based casinos and slot machine halls.

Online advertising guidance

While targeted online advertising is still allowed, several new conditions have been established.

Companies that display gambling adverts must allow users to opt out of seeing them.

Moreover, companies will be required to ensure that people vulnerable to gambling addiction do not see their adverts.

They must also prove that at least 95% of their advertising reaches people who are over 24.

The same rules apply to social media, video-on-demand and direct mail campaigns.

NOGA reaction

Peter-Paul de Goeij, the managing director of the Netherlands Online Gambling Association (NOGA), supports the decision to protect young adults and vulnerable groups. However, he emphasised the importance of advertising in directing players towards licensed providers in the Netherlands.

According to him, advertising enables consumers to better distinguish between licensed and unlicensed providers because they recognise brands from advertisements and sponsorships.

He is concerned that the advertising ban may lead to an increase in players choosing unlicensed providers who do not provide adequate player protection measures.

KSA chair René Jansen has called upon the Netherlands’ gambling sector to moderate its levels of advertising around the upcoming World Cup.

In a letter sent to all Dutch licensees, Jansen highlighted recent appeals made by the country’s minister for legal protection Franc Weerwind, requesting gambling operators moderate their advertising around the tournament, which kicks off in Qatar this November.

Weerwind has already been instrumental in introducing wide-ranging restrictions on the country’s gambling sector since the launch of its regulated market last year, including a ban on the use of ‘role models’ in advertising and the upcoming prohibition of all untargeted advertising.

The introduction of the ban on untargeted ads was recently postponed, after originally being planned to take effect from 1 January 2023. Instead, it is now expected to come into effect several months later.

KSA chair Jansen said that although he understands the World Cup is “an excellent opportunity to draw attention to the range of sports betting” available in the country, he hopes operators will not make “the same mistake” they did following the opening of the market last October.

KSA chairman René Jansen: “A new tidal wave of advertising would mean an extra blow to the image of the sector and perhaps the prelude to even more far-reaching regulation of what is allowed in the field of advertising. I’d say don’t let it get to that point!”

Following the market’s launch in October 2021, Jansen said: “The bombardment of advertising caused so much annoyance that Minister Franc Weerwind (gambling policy) was forced to intervene, partly at the urging of the House of Representatives.

“I just hope that the underlying message has got through to the gambling providers. That is: there is a limit to what society accepts. This was clearly exceeded by the sector after the opening of the legal online gambling market. 

“The industry as a whole and individual gambling companies individually have not excelled in displaying well-considered behaviour. 

“Earning money quickly and gaining additional market share should not be considered more important than carefully and jointly building a sector where consumers can enjoy recreational and controlled participation in games of chance in a safe environment.”

Concluding his renewed call to Dutch-licensed operators, Jansen said: “A new tidal wave of advertising would mean an extra blow to the image of the sector and perhaps the prelude to even more far-reaching regulation of what is allowed in the field of advertising. I’d say don’t let it get to that point!”

The proposed ban on broadcast gambling ads in the Netherlands will most likely not go into effect on 1 January 2023 as originally planned.

In July, the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind submitted a proposal which, if approved, would prohibit operators from advertising products via television, radio and in public spaces, both indoor and outdoor.

The blog Gaming in Holland now reported that last Thursday (6 October) Weerwind had informed the Permanent Committee for Justice and Security of the Dutch Lower House that the proposed ban would be delayed by several months.

One reason for the delay was that the Ministry is still processing the responses to the public consultation on the proposed rule change.

Only once this process is concluded, the Council of State can offer its advice on the new rules, the blog reports.

The Council of State is a constitutionally established advisory body in the Netherlands that consists of members of the royal family and Crown-appointed members generally having political, commercial, diplomatic or military experience.

The Council of State was founded in 1531, making it one of the world’s oldest still-functioning state organisations, and to this day must be consulted by the cabinet on proposed legislation before a law is submitted to parliament.

Gaming in Holland reports that the Council of State may also find that the proposed rule change requires new primary legislation rather than a simpler and quicker change in secondary legislation as originally planned.

Moreover, should the Council of State reject the proposal, this would most likely also affect the timeline for the introduction of additional gambling advertising restrictions.

The original proposal suggested that the ban would extend to event sponsorships from 1 January 2024 and to sports sponsorship from 1 January 2025.

Minister Weerwind also indicated that due to technical, legal and privacy considerations, the government would not seek to introduce cross-operator deposit limits for the time being.

Instead, each licensed online operator would be required to introduce an as yet unspecified maximum deposit limit for each individual player.

The Netherlands’ Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind has submitted a proposal to the country’s Council of Ministers to ban all untargeted gambling advertising.

The proposal, which would take effect from 1 January 2023, would see operators prohibited from advertising products via television, radio and in public spaces, both indoor and outdoor. 

Advertising via the internet and direct marketing would still be permitted, although the Dutch government has said rules for these methods would be tightened to ensure vulnerable groups are not targeted.

Crucially, the proposal would also see a complete ban on event and sport sponsorships by gambling firms, with event sponsorship prohibited from 1 January 2024 and sporting venue and shirt sponsorships being phased out by 1 January 2025.

The government said by gradually phasing out the presence of gambling sponsorship, the sports sector will have the opportunity to find alternative sponsors and commercial revenue streams. 

The decision will be consulted on this week, according to the government, after which interested parties will have an eight-week period in which to submit any responses.

At the same time as the consultation, the proposal will also be submitted to the Netherlands’ House of Representatives and Senate.

Although the Dutch government has recognised the importance of advertising in helping players differentiate between regulated and unregulated offerings, this latest proposal suggests it will prioritise consumer protection over channelisation.

Netherlands Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind: “Advertising is a means of directing people to the legal offer, but the importance of addiction prevention outweighs this.”

Minister Weerwind said last week: “Today we have taken an important step towards further curbing gambling advertisements. 

“Advertising is a means of directing people to the legal offer, but the importance of addiction prevention outweighs this. With this I want to protect vulnerable groups such as young people in particular.”

So far, industry responses to the proposal reflect disappointment among gaming businesses which are active in the Dutch market.

Industry association NOGA, which represents online operators in the Netherlands, said: “As we have previously argued, a certain degree of advertising, for example through sponsorship, is necessary to make known to those Dutch people who would like to gamble online where and with whom they can do so safely and responsibly: with gambling providers with a Dutch licence.

“After all, it is precisely with licensed providers that consumers are best protected, that gambling providers have a duty of care and that problem gambling, fraud and money laundering can best be combated.

“With illegal providers, there is often no protection at all, money is sometimes laundered on a large scale and online gamblers are not infrequently exposed to fraud and match-fixing.”

NOGA also pointed to research showing that while the number of Dutch people who gambled online before and since the launch of the Netherlands’ regulated market has remained largely the same, a significant proportion preferred licensed offerings over unlicensed ones.

This, the association said, was due in no small part to the brand recognition built by operators through advertising.

NOGA: “With illegal providers, there is often no protection at all, money is sometimes laundered on a large scale and online gamblers are not infrequently exposed to fraud and match-fixing.”

However, the research also showed that 22% of Dutch online gamblers continued to use unlicensed operators, while as many as 70% of customers still find it difficult to distinguish between licensed and unlicensed operators.

Therefore, the association argued that the industry must not remain idle and should continue working to persuade Dutch customers to use licensed operators – a process which relies on advertising and sponsorship.

A ban on untargeted advertising as proposed by the government “makes the distinction between legal and illegal even more unclear and plays right into the hands of the illegal providers,” said NOGA.

It added the decisions taken in government were made “even though the effects of the advertising of online gambling and sponsorship on the occurrence of problem gambling or on vulnerable groups are far from clear.” 

“NOGA therefore calls again on all stakeholders to base gambling policies and policy adjustments on facts and research results and not on fears and assumptions,” the association concluded.

The move is bad news for Kindred Group, which signed a new commercial agreement with Dutch football giants Ajax in June, after being granted a licence to relaunch its flagship Unibet brand in the country.

Unibet has previously said its partnership with Ajax will see both parties work together to prevent betting-related match-fixing, and to promote mental health awareness and responsible gambling.

The contract is due to last until 2026, but with a proposed ban on sports sponsorships coming into effect from 2025, it is not yet clear what will come of the partnership beyond that deadline. 

Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind has called for a ban on untargeted advertising for online gambling in a blow for the country’s regulated operators. 

Weerwind set out plans in a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives to expedite the process of amending the Remote Gambling Act and to close in on a legal ban within a year.

Weerwind noted in his letter the importance of creating high levels of channelisation in the country by showcasing the regulated market, but said the protection of vulnerable groups must also be guaranteed within a legal environment. 

He added that those working with addiction and those with a history of problem gambling found the large amount of untargeted gambling advertising in the market to be challenging, although he acknowledged there was no significant data available on the topic.

He also noted that larger numbers of young people appear to be gambling since the market’s liberalisation in October 2021, and said he wants to ensure that gambling ads are targeted at those who already have an interest in the industry.

The recommended clampdown will seek to ban the use of public figures and role models such as football players in gambling advertising from June as they are thought to have an additional appeal to younger customers.

This is a tried and tested marketing practice in the Netherlands. Former international footballers Wesley Sneijder and Andy van der Meijde represent TOTO and BetCity respectively.

The draft text for a legal ban is currently being worked out. Weerwind hopes to submit it for consultation before the summer and for it to be adopted into law within a year. Usually, the process of amending legislation in the Netherlands would take around two years, but the politician is hoping to fast-track the process on this occasion. 

In the interim, operators in the market have agreed with the minister, alongside industry associations NOGA and VNLOK, to stop advertising on the radio, in public places and in print media, while TV ads will now only be broadcast between 10pm and 6am.

Weerwind said the sector has also committed itself to a series of further measures, with the main aim of protecting vulnerable groups.

The measures will be implemented on top of existing regulatory requirements enforced by Kansspelautoriteit and will include limiting communications about bonus offers and encouraging customers to set limits on their play.

The country’s gambling trade associations are working on a complete list of measures to implement from 1 April.

In addition to the measures being introduced on advertising, Weerwind has called for an investigation to be carried out into the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the gambling activities of young people in the Netherlands.

Sweden’s gambling regulator published a similar study this week into the impact of Covid-19 restrictions for online casino gameplay but was unable to establish any concrete conclusions.