How the Netherlands shook up the gambling industry in 2023

How times have changed 🎰

As of July 1 2023, the Netherlands began ripping down the many cheesy gambling posters on bus stops, silenced the ear-splitting gambling advertisements that perforated podcasts, and halted the vibrantly coloured TV ads depicting people with confetti, a deranged smile, and a shower of money.

All of this was part of an important rule change in the Dutch online gambling scene. As of July 1 of this year, the Netherlands imposed a ban on advertising gambling out in the open, on our TV screens, in magazines, and over the radio. 

However, before we get into what exactly this rule change means for the Dutch gambling industry, we have to get into how this all came to be in the first place. 

Why is a ban on Dutch online gambling sites’ advertisements needed? 

This story actually begins in October 2021, when the Netherlands released the reigns of the Dutch online gambling industry and their advertisement strategies. 

From October 2021, the Dutch government officially allowed online gambling sites to advertise across television, radio, online, and on outdoor posters, such as those at bus stops.

photo-of-man-sitting-at-bus-stop-Netherlands
Waiting for the bus? Bang, here’s an ugly ad. Image: Freepik

The result? Instead of keeping things simple and asking people to “visit online-gambling.com to enjoy some of the best gambling sites in the Netherlands”, many companies went, well, a little overboard. 

With gambling companies spending nearly a quarter of a billion on advertising during this time period, the Netherlands soon became inundated with gambling advertisements — and surprise, surprise, this was a problem. 

A quick turnaround 

Guess what happens when you have gambling advertisements shoved in the ears and eyes of an entire population? Vulnerable people develop a problem. 

Not even two years after allowing Dutch gambling sites to have their way with advertising, the Dutch government has taken away that freedom. 

Now, the Dutch government has imposed a ban on untargeted advertising by gambling sites — meaning their adverts cannot be seen by just anyone (such as 18-year-old boys.) 

What are the new rules?

Instead of untargeted advertising, Dutch gambling sites must advertise in accordance with a strict set of rules: 

  • Gambling may not be advertised on posters, in magazines, over the radio or on TV.
  • Ads are still allowed online, but gambling sites must take “the best available measures” in order to avoid advertising to people under the age of 24 or vulnerable groups such as gambling addicts. 
  • Following this, they must prove “using the best available techniques” that 95% of people reached are above the age of 24. 
  • People who see these online advertisements should have the choice to opt out of being shown them.

Are these rules straightforward? Not exactly. 

The gambling industry has been quick to point out that some of these measures are a bit vague — what are “the best available measures”? What are the “best techniques?” and what the heck even counts as advertising?

photo-of-man-looking-stressed-at-phone
Many were confused by these new rules. Image: Freepik

On top of this, there’s the question of how these rules will even be enforced. How can sites guarantee that 95% of their advertising will only reach people above the age of 24? How will this be checked by authorities? 

The gambling authority responds 

The Dutch gambling authority (Kansspelautoriteit or Ksa) saw these questions coming, and they responded, well, accordingly. 

When faced with these concerns, a spokesperson for the Ksa gave a somewhat reassuring response: “Like the industry, we will have to find our way in this.”

The spokesperson points out that much like Dutch online gambling sites, the Ksa must also get used to the new advertisement ban. “We are only able to provide the requested guidance to a limited extent. Various parts of the new ban are a new and uncharted area for us as well.”

What does this mean for the enforcement of the ban?

While the Ksa gets used to the new ban, it seems that advertisers will enjoy a learning period where they won’t be slapped too hard on the wrist for some slip-ups. 

“Nobody wants to run the risk of a surprise fine. And yet… I feel the need to manage expectations a little in that respect,” a spokesperson for the authority tells an audience at the Gaming in Holland Conference on July 8. 

“You may expect the Ksa not to tackle new monitoring or enforcement situations straight-legged. 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.” 

To offer a more basic translation: the Dutch gambling authority itself doesn’t know how to enforce these measures yet, so gambling sites do not have to live in fear of penalisation for the time being. 

That being said, the spokesperson finished his speech with some very basic guidelines for the industry: “My most important guidance – and appeal – for today is an old traffic safety advice: ‘When in doubt, no passing!’”

Let’s hope gambling sites are looking left and right then. 

How has the online gambling scene changed since?

So, how has this new ban affected the online gambling scene in the time that has followed the ban? 

Well, on a surface level, many of us can enjoy fewer jarring advertisements scattered across billboards, bus stops, and our TV screens. However, can we truly say that vulnerable groups are being protected from gambling advertisements? 

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The fear is that vulnerable people will still fall for illegal advertisements. Image: Freepik

Some experts fear not. In fact, as Peter-Paul de Goeij from the trade associations for gambling companies, Noga, tells Adformatie, the empty advertising space left by legal gambling sites will only allow more room for illegal gambling sites to flourish:

“A ban sounds sympathetic, but it mainly helps the tens of thousands of illegal online providers who happily continue to advertise online.”

With illegal gambling sites cropping up in place of legal ones, the fear is that vulnerable groups will instead encounter games that aren’t fair, and risk losing even more money. 

In fact, these illegal sites are more than happy to lure in vulnerable users. For example, they will happily take on customers who are registered as gambling addicts. 

Just a few months into this ban, all bets are off, and the Netherlands will have to wait and see if this is the turn that gambling advertising will take. 

Do you think this ban will help? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image:Freepik

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