An online operator owned by one of the Netherlands' biggest bricks-and-mortar casino groups has been fined €400,000 for aiming adverts at young adults.
The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) said it had established that JOI Gaming Ltd had sent inappropriate advertising messages for online games on its website www.jacks.nl from December 8, 2021 to March 7, 2022.
The promotional messages, including details of bonus offers, were directed to JOI Gaming's customer base, including young adults aged under-24.
JOI, which is owned by JVH, which operates a network of 85 land-based casinos across the country, also owns the online brand names Jack’s, Jack’s Casino, Jack’s Casino & Sports and Jack’s Sports.
René Jansen, chairman of the KSA, said: “As far as we are concerned, the legislator is crystal clear: no recruitment activities aimed at young adults.
“In December 2021, the Gaming Authority emphasised even more to licensed providers how the provisions on advertising and recruitment activities are intended [to be complied with]. The Gaming Authority considers it serious and culpable that this provider nevertheless focused on young adults.”
Dutch regulations provide added protection for children and young gamblers aged between 18 and 24 because of concerns that they are at greater risk of developing gambling addiction.
The KSA’s investigation found that advertising emails were sent to all of JOI’s registered players, despite the operator having the technology to remove young adults from the list.
JOI had claimed that the regulations lacked sufficient “clarity regarding the rules for advertising for online games of chance” and that the “entire online games of chance sector was in the initial phase of looking for the right balance between player protection on the one hand and advertising on the other”.
According to JOI Gaming, when it came to the protection of vulnerable groups, it was not entirely clear how the absolute nature of the legislation related to the fact that it can never be guaranteed that minors and other vulnerable groups will not become aware of advertising for online games of chance.
JOI Gaming also said the KSA apparently considered “directing to” synonymous with “aimed at” in terms of applying the regulations. In the opinion of JOI Gaming, this was not correct or was in any case disputable.
In addition, JOI Gaming said a total ban on writing to young adults would mean that young adults would be excluded from the most obvious method — direct mailings — to guide them to the legal gambling market.
However, the gaming authority said it was evident that JOI Gaming had focused its recruitment and advertising activities on young adults and that it had thereby violated the regulations.
It imposed a €350,000 fine based on the seriousness of the breach and an additional €50,000 because of the length of time the messaging had continued.
The KSA said it has launched an official investigation into compliance with the ban on advertising games of chance aimed at minors and young adults after reports and media coverage suggesting that licence holders did not always comply with the rules.
Last year the Netherlands said it was planning to introduce more gambling advertising restrictions, including a ban on non-targeted online ads and the use of celebrities in promotions.