The Dutch minister in charge of gambling issues has rejected calls for a general ban on gambling advertising, saying he disagrees with a Belgian minister’s view that “gambling is the new smoking”.
Dutch justice minister Franc Weerwind, who has been on the job five months, told parliament this week that he did not agree with the reported statement of his Belgian counterpart that “gambling is the new smoking and everyone agrees tobacco advertising should not be there”.
“We know that every cigarette is bad for your health,” he wrote to parliament. “Games of chance are a form of leisure for many people and do not cause any problems for a very large proportion of people.”
“I do not consider a general ban on advertising for high-risk games of chance desirable,” he said.
Belgium has proposed a draft royal decree that would severely restrict gambling ads.
“Gambling does have risks,” Weerwind said. “Because of these risks, it is important that players are well protected” from “excessive advertising and its wide untargeted reach”.
From June 30, the Dutch government is banning ads using role models for casino games and is reviewing a possible ban on print, TV and radio ads for higher risk games.
The Netherlands allows gambling advertising as a way to channel players into licensed websites, he said. “The Dutch player who wants to gamble online must be able to do so in a legal and safe environment.”
Dutch residents having spent more hours gambling online since it was legalised in October is not necessarily a bad thing because of that goal to channel play to legal sites, Weerwind said.
The minister said there is not enough data to determine whether young people are becoming addicted to gambling at higher rates than older people.
But he noted that 17 percent of accounts so far were created by those aged 18-24, while they only represent 11 percent of the population.
By one measure, the Dutch online gambling licensing regime seems successful so far.
About nine out of ten online gamblers are doing so with licensed operators so far, above the target of 80 percent, Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) chairman Rene Jansen told members of parliament in a June 9 roundtable on gambling.
But Jansen said the authority’s concerns include the volume of advertising, and that some pitches could appeal to minors and vulnerable people.