Affordability Policy Unveiled In The Netherlands

June 4, 2024
Operators in the Netherlands will soon need to comply with a two-tier affordability scheme and a raft of other new rules released by the Dutch Gambling Authority on Monday.

Operators in the Netherlands will soon need to comply with a two-tier affordability scheme and a raft of other new rules released by the Dutch Gambling Authority (KSA) on Monday.

A set of new compliance requirements on responsible gambling was published yesterday (June 3), including a requirement for operators to confirm that customers can afford their spending.

Thresholds have been set at net monthly deposits of €300 for young adults, aged 18 to 23, and €700 for those aged 24 and older, after which operators must ensure that the individual has the money to keep gambling.

Operators will be required to immediately pause the ability to deposit until they are confident that a player can afford it. If licensees are not confident that the player has the disposable income required, they should block all deposits for a calendar month, the KSA said.

The thresholds have been calculated based on the average wage in the Netherlands and are set at the point at which a player would be spending more than 30 percent of their disposable income with a single operator.

“Only a limited number of players will encounter these limits and it is likely that a (relatively larger) part of them will be risk or problem players,” according to the decree.

Other events that an operator becomes aware of could also trigger an affordability check, for example, if a customer reveals that they are selling assets to fund their gambling, the decree says.

The policy includes a list of other potentially inciting incidents, including if “licence holders can, for example, deduce from complaints, questions or conversations that the player has little or no balance in [their] bank account or is unable to pay a parking fee, [for a] taxi ride or public transport”.

The method by which an operator should conduct an affordability check is not specified in the decree and the assessment of what is or is not affordable beyond the rough 30 percent estimate is left largely to the discretion of the licence-holder.

“This provision does not imply that the online provider is obliged to proactively ask about the player's ability to pay,” it reads.

“What is sufficient to demonstrate that the player can support [their] playing behaviour depends on the case, such as the type of income or the type of work. The player's privacy interests also depend on the situation. It is up to the online provider as a controller to determine whether, to what extent, and in what way [they] may process personal data of the player in a specific case.”

The new policy was greeted coolly by the Netherlands Online Gambling Association (NOGA). 

NOGA managing director Peter-Paul De Goeij described the measures as "taken based on assumptions and fear rather than decent research and factual data".

"Combined with the high tax rate, through the stacking effect, [Dutch regulations] will have a detrimental effect on channelisation and may drive players to illegal operators."

A sometimes bitter debate around affordability has dominated gambling regulatory conversations in the nearby UK for the past few years.

Originally floated in 2019, the UK is still yet to fully roll out its affordability regulations. A lower-intensity version which will require operators to check for records, like money-related court judgments, is set to come into effect this August.

A more intensive requirement to investigate a gambler’s finances at higher levels of spend is currently undergoing a six-month trial and the details of how it might effectively function are still unknown. 

Affordability has proved highly controversial in the UK, especially with the horseracing industry, which argues that being forced to share personal financial information with a gambling operator will drive players to the unregulated market.

Elsewhere, the new Dutch regulations add more detail to advertising limits and requirements around player interactions.

Restrictions detailed in the provision include a ban on operators using promotional marketing to encourage gamblers to continue playing “high-risk” types of casino games.

The policy also includes a previously announced requirement that operators should interact with a player who is showing signs of potential gambling harm no more than one hour after those signals are detected.

The majority of the provisions come into effect immediately, but others including the new affordability rules will only be in force from October 1.

The responsible gambling policy applies across both land-based and online gambling, although certain elements such as tightly tracking net deposits are more strictly regulated for online operators.

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