Save young people or kill the Dutch legal gambling market?
On 1 October 2021, the Dutch market opened for remote gambling. One of the goals of opening the online gambling market was that at least 80 % of players would play with a legal provider within three years of the market opening. It seems that this goal has already been more than achieved. The percentage of players who play only with legal providers as of January 2023 is 92 %.
However, despite this, the Dutch authorities have decided to ban gambling advertising in public places, on television, radio, etc., which has caused debate due to the ambiguity of this decision and the potential consequences for achieving the goal of legalising the gambling market. The Dutch affiliate of Nlcasinospot.nl , HraiGamble Group, has investigated this issue.
Gambling advertising on television, radio and in public places, including billboards, has been banned since 1 July at the request of the Minister of Legal Protection Franc Weerwind. In this way, the authorities are trying to prevent gambling addiction among young people and vulnerable people.
Today we have taken an important step towards further restricting gambling advertising. Advertising is a means of directing people to a legal offer, but the importance of preventing addiction outweighs it. By doing so, I want to protect vulnerable groups, particularly young people.
Franc Weerwind, Minister voor Rechtsbescherming
This bill was preceded by another ban in the field of advertising. In June 2022, the Dutch Government, believing that high demand among young people is driven by promotion through influencer campaigns, introduced a ban on the participation in advertising of persons who enjoy a certain public fame or with whom they want to identify or associate, such as professional footballers, influencers, models, singers and famous poker players.
Role models can provide an appealing example of a successful lifestyle that is particularly attractive to young people. We have seen that advertisements featuring role models can have a pull effect to start gambling or continue playing longer than is responsible. To protect vulnerable groups and especially young people, I have banned the use of role models..
Franc Weerwind, Minister voor Rechtsbescherming
Sponsorship of online gambling will soon also be banned, for example, in television programmes or sports clubs. The transition period will last until 1 July 2025. For sports gambling providers, this is the last chance to jump on the last bandwagon, such as BetCity.nl, which immediately acts as a sponsor of VVV-Venlo. Until mid-2025, the BetCity logo will be placed on the back of the Koelclub shirt, which has featured the Resifence logo in recent seasons.
Arguments in favour of the Dutch authorities
The Dutch Government have introduced these bans on gambling advertising to prevent gambling addiction among young and vulnerable people, especially those under the age of 18.
If we turn to the study published Monitoringsrapportage online kansspelen voorjaar 2023 by the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), we will see that in its monitoring report, the KSA pays special attention to young people. Compared to the total number of players, young people are relatively more likely to play sports betting. In 2022, the group of young people generated BSR (BSR – bets minus prizes paid out) of €102 million. This is 9.4% of the total BSR in 2022, and this share has been stable over the months.
This could last until mid-2025. So until then, the idols of the youth can continue to walk the field as walking advertising columns for this exciting activity.
SP-Kamerlid Michiel van Nispen
Not surprisingly, SP-Kamerlid Michiel van Nispen regrets that Minister Weerwind is sticking to a transitional period for sports sponsorship.
According to Feite Hofman, an expert on gambling addiction at Pas op Gamen en Gokken (PoGG), there is at least one person in every class who gambles online. At the same time, he monitors the dynamics of the growing popularity of online gambling and finds it alarming.
They think they can make money quickly and easily. And they like it, it’s like a game.
Feite Hofman, an expert on gambling addiction at PoGG
Another expert on youth poverty and debt prevention, Evelien Rutgers, senior project manager at MoneyWays, also confirms the fact that online gambling plays a big role among students. Young people are increasingly attracted to making money quickly and associate it with happiness and status, he said.
How it will affect the legal gambling industry
While the intention to protect vulnerable groups is commendable, industry experts argue that these measures may hinder the goal of fully legalising the gambling market.
Critics argue that the ban on advertising does not address the safety of vulnerable groups, but only drives gambling underground.
According to Peter-Paul de Goeij, Director of the Netherlands Online Gambling Association (NOGA), “banning something does not make it disappear, it just disappears from view.”
The point is that after the legalisation of the market in 2021, only those providers that received a Kansspelautoriteit licence had the right to publicly advertise.
Peter-Paul de Goeij emphasises that the gambling advertising policy is ineffective as long as Google can advertise illegal online casinos – two out of five paid gambling ads on Google.nl come from illegal providers. This makes it harder for consumers to know which providers are safe and which are not. The risk of falling for illegal gambling providers and fraudsters increases.
Moreover, the removal of advertising from public places and media channels reduces brand awareness, making it difficult to estimate the number of players using licensed offers.
For new players, this draft law creates an uneven playing field and creates an additional barrier to entry, impeding the growth of the legal gambling market.
Italy’s experience, which introduced a similar ban, has led to an increase in the number of illegal players, which raises concerns for Justin Franssen, associate at Kalff Katz & Franssen, about the potential growth of illegal activities in the Dutch market.
In addition, the requirement for websites to ensure that 95% of their visitors are aged 24 and over creates problems for affiliate sites, which is an unattainable goal for even the friendliest (affiliate) websites, potentially leading to closures and restrictions on access to information for those seeking legal online casinos. “People who are actively looking for information about legitimate online casinos will be confronted with illegal offers that do not comply with the rules and laws,” worries Steven Vrolijk van het Kermerk of Verantwoorde Affiliates. The goal of legalising the gambling market suddenly becomes extremely difficult to achieve.
People who are actively looking for information about legitimate online casinos will be confronted with illegal offers that do not comply with the rules and laws.
Steven Vrolijk van het Kermerk of Verantwoorde Affiliates
While the Dutch authorities are keen to protect young people and vulnerable groups, there is concern among industry experts that these measures may have unintended consequences. Currently, there is a lack of convincing evidence that inappropriate advertising is linked to gambling addiction. In this regard, the Ministry of Legal Protection needs to make more efforts to strike a balance between the development of the legal gambling market and measures to ensure the safety of vulnerable groups. The industry expects further steps from the authorities to address the problems associated with the ban on advertising and promote responsible gambling practices.