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Dutch Gambling Authority Issues Warnings for Untargeted Ads

Dutch gambling regulator, Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), has swung into action to enforce the newly implemented ban on untargeted ads in the country. The ban is a measure to curb problematic gambling among the Dutch public and came into effect last month. All public advertisements, including television, radio, and billboards are completely prohibited. Licensed gambling operators in the country are only allowed to advertise online, within the framework outlined by the regulator. The Dutch regulator is closely monitoring the implementation of the ban, keeping an eye on iGaming operators to ensure they follow through on the new requirements for online advertising. It has found three such violations in August 2023 so far and issued warnings to the offending operators. The regulator discovered that despite the prohibition, some operators were found advertising publicly via billboards and posters.

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Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) working hard to ensure the implementation of the ads ban. ©Miltiadis Fragkidis/Unsplash

The Netherlands has a long history of regulating gambling, dating back to the 14th century. The current regulatory body is the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), which was established in 2012 to reform Dutch gambling laws and enforce the country’s Gambling Act. The KSA is an independent administrative body and the supervisor and regulator of gambling services in the Netherlands. Its mission is to ensure that gambling in the country is safe, reliable, and crime-free. The Dutch Gambling Authority regulates gambling and betting activity, issues licenses, supervises and enforces acts and regulations, supervises license holders, and provides support to Dutch players. All unlicensed offshore gambling sites are illegal in the country and are immediately blocked by the regulator. The regulator is also responsible for creating and enforcing new rules and regulations for gambling that will help create a safe environment for Dutch gamblers. The main condition for any operator to obtain a license in the Netherlands is that they must comply with the government’s measures for addiction prevention and protection of young and vulnerable audiences from the harmful effects of gambling.

In a bid to curb underage and problematic gambling, the Dutch Gambling Authority recently implemented a ban on gambling advertisements in the country. The ban entails that licensed operators are not allowed any type of public advertisements, including billboards, television, radio, and any kind of posters or visual advertisements in public places such as cinemas, malls, and bus or train stations. The new regulation also states that only regulated online advertising will be allowed for licensed gambling operators. The operators must provide the KSA data that 95% of their targeted online ads are reaching audiences that are 24 years or older. The ban also includes phasing out sports sponsorships by gambling companies to be phased out by 2025. Any breach of this new law will result in penalties for the operators. This move was to prevent any underage citizens or people prone to problematic gambling from being attracted to games of chance.

The ban, which was initially supposed to come into effect in January 2023, was finally implemented on July 1, 2023. Since its implementation, the Dutch Gambling Authority has kept a close eye on ensuring that all gambling companies licensed to operate in Holland are adhering to the regulations set forth by the ban. However, the KSA recently revealed that it had found some violations of the regulations. Since the new advertising rules came into effect, the KSA has received several signals that ads by various online gambling providers are still visible in public places. These ads were seen on billboards and bus shelters. Upon receiving the signals, the regulator jumped into action and demanded relevant information from the offending operators. After evaluating the responses given by the gambling providers, KSA issued warnings to the violators. The public ads were immediately removed after the warnings were issued. The KSA has decided not to levy fines as yet on the offenders. However, further offenses may result in heavy penalties for the operators.

KSA tackling illegal gambling

The Dutch Gambling Authority is actively battling illegal gambling in the country. It recently published a periodic update on how the regulator is tackling illegal offerings in the country. The report stated that by the end of 2022, the KSA had levied fines on eight illegal gambling providers in the country. The fines amounted to almost 30 million euros. These were made public in the spring of 2023. The report also revealed that in the first half of this year, the regulator conducted 32 investigations into illegal gambling offerings on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The violations were reported to the parent company, Meta, by the KSA, after which such ads were taken down immediately.

The KSA has also extended support to the police and law enforcement teams to investigate and take action against illegal gambling. The enforcement included raids and municipal actions in 42 such cases. The regulator is also working to stop illegal operators that allow the use of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoins were used in six different investigations in the first half of 2023 to determine violations of illegal payments. The KSA revealed that in most cases warnings or penalties were issued and the violations were stopped immediately. However, it has found three such illegal providers that have not stopped the violations, resulting in the regulator imposing a periodic penalty on these providers.

Gambling operators Winning Poker Network and Goldwin Limited were slapped with fines in June 2023 for operating within the country without a valid license. Their illegal activity was detected by the KSA much earlier and both were issued warnings by the regulator. However, the operators did not cease their operations despite the warnings, which prompted KSA to slap fines. Following the fines, Goldwin immediately stopped its operations. However, Winning Poker Network continued to offer gambling services illegally and was hit with a weekly fine of 25 thousand euros which can go up to 75 thousand euros if it does not comply.

Dutch lawyers oppose Maltese Bill

The Maltese B5 gambling bill, also known as Bill 55, is a piece of legislation that grants Maltese courts the authority to reject the acknowledgment and enforcement of foreign judgments pertaining to online gambling. The bill aims to protect Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)-licensed gambling operators from overseas claims for damages. This allows Maltese courts to refuse recognition and enforcement actions in Malta by foreign betting and gaming regulators. The bill has drawn the scorn of regulators from other European countries, with a group of lawyers from the Netherlands rallying their government to take a stand against it.

The lawyers have stated that the bill opposes EU law that orders gambling companies to pay back sums of money to the consumers who are wronged. The bill is a violation of consumer rights according to the lawyers. The two firms have issued a joint letter to Dutch Minister Franc Weerwind, appealing to the government to take a stand against the Maltese Bill.

“We call on the Dutch government to stand up for the interests of this group of Dutch people and to ensure, via the European Commission, that Malta does not continue with the contempt of the rule of law enshrined in the EU treaties.”

These lawyers are heavily involved in litigation against MGA-licensed gambling businesses active in the European grey market. The letter is signed by Benzi Loonstein, Herman Loonstein, and Johan Oosterhagen from Loonstein Lawyers along with Martijn Bonefaas and Anton Heilig from Van Diepen Van der Kroef Lawyers.

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Author: Jordan Bennett