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The Netherlands Gaming Authority (KSA) has slapped domestic online gambling operator Toto with a €400k fine for marketing directly to young adults aged between 18 and 23.

The KSA discovered that Toto had targeted advertising at a socially vulnerable group – in this scenario young adults – which is prohibited by the country’s online gambling regulations.

Toto was one of the first licensed companies to go live when the regulated Netherlands market re-launched on 1 October 2021.

Between that date and 31 January 2022, Toto sent general commercial messages to all consenting players in its database without excluding the ‘young adults’ category.

The marketing material was sent via both email and directly via the Toto mobile app in the form of push notifications.

Some emails included bonus offers, which is a violation of the Netherlands’ Remote Gambling Act (KOA). The violation ended on 1 February 2022, according to the KSA.

One Toto customer classed as a young adult received three emails in less than four months.

KSA chair René Jansen: “The brains of young people are still developing. As a result, they are extra vulnerable to developing gambling addiction.”

KSA chairman René Jansen said: “The law says that vulnerable groups, including young adults, must be given extra protection.

“The brains of young people are still developing. As a result, they are extra vulnerable to developing gambling addiction.

“Gaming providers must fully respect the rules intended to protect vulnerable groups. That didn’t happen here and that’s why we have imposed this fine,” he added.

In response Toto, via its lawyers, said the fine was not proportionate because the regulation is unclear and that the regulator’s report “partly constitutes an incorrect representation of the alleged facts”.

Nonetheless, Toto accepted the KSA’s decision.

In a statement provided to casinonieuws.nl, Toto said: “When the online gambling market opened on 1 October 2021, there was uncertainty in this new market about the exact interpretation of the new laws and regulations.

“Toto does everything it can to comply with strict laws and regulations and even takes far-reaching measures in addition to the legal rules.”