Dutch Parliament Calls For Online Gambling Ad Ban

April 18, 2024
The “sick” Dutch online gambling market is under renewed political pressure after MPs voted for a motion to ban online gambling advertising.

The “sick” Dutch online gambling market is under renewed political pressure after MPs voted for a motion to ban online gambling advertising.

The latest wave in a torrent of disastrous political developments for Dutch online gambling crashed onto shore on Wednesday (April 17), demonstrating beyond any doubt that majority opinion in parliament has firmly solidified against the industry.

Anti-industry ringleaders Michiel van Nispen of the Socialist Party (SP) and Mirjam Bikker, leader of the Christian Union submitted a raft of new motions on Tuesday that seek to toughen rules around gambling.

The most significant calls for a ban on online gambling advertising. A total of 77 out of the 150 members of parliament voted in favour.

Motions are non-binding and it will be up to minister Franc Weerwind to decide whether to act on it, as well as several other approved motions.

Weerwind could choose to reject or soften the proposals, but he notably did follow through on demands for a ban on untargeted advertising called for by a motion last year.

Van Nispen, who presented the ad ban motion, celebrated his success in comments posted on the SP website.

“This [online gambling] market is sick through and through. Every day that these companies continue their bad practices, more people become addicted to gambling. 

“As far as we are concerned, it is the end of the story for gambling companies without morals. A ban on online gambling advertisements is another step forward towards a country without bad gambling companies.”

Industry trade group NOGA, which largely represents online companies licensed since the market opened in 2021, labelled politicians that backed the motion “thoughtless and irresponsible”.

“The House of Representatives is chasing online gamblers to illegal casinos,” it said in a statement.

“A majority in the House of Representatives is taking an expensive gamble with online players who are now consciously opting for the legal offer. If we soon find that politicians have made the wrong decisions too hastily, the House will be responsible for the negative consequences," warned NOGA director Peter-Paul de Goeij.

“Minister Weerwind has kept a cool head so far. We count on the outgoing Cabinet and the Cabinet to be formed to continue that sensible line and never jeopardise the protection of online players,” he said.

Negotiations to form a new Dutch government are ongoing after last year’s election. Weerwind is highly unlikely to remain in his post once a new Cabinet is agreed, with his party D66 having performed very poorly in the 2023 ballot.

Another high-profile van Nispen motion approved on Tuesday called for a ban on high-risk games, which would likely include all forms of online slots.

It referred to calls by the National Rapporteur on Addictions for “a ban on games of chance with a demonstrably very high risk, such as games in which the player has no influence on the outcome and with a short period of time between bet and result”.

In total, ten of the 15 motions related to gambling received approval in parliament.

Another approved motion calls for more action against gambling companies that take on Dutch customers without a licence and specifically orders the government to engage with Malta on its controversial Bill 55.

“[The motion] calls on the government to work together with other European member states to address Malta about the recently adopted law and to request text and explanation, and to inform the House of this soon,” it said.

Other approved motions included backing for the Netherlands Gambling Authority to be given fake IDs to investigate offshore gambling operators, which the regulator has previously petitioned minister Weerwind for.

Separate motions that won their votes include calls to distinguish between games of chance by risk profile and to “investigate how the liability of online gambling providers can be extended to individuals when gambling companies violate the rules”.

Even if Weerwind or his replacement do not feel compelled to follow through on the avalanche of demands for tough changes to regulations, dark clouds hang over a review of the Gambling Act set to take place at the end of this year.

A review of the legislation that opened the Dutch online market three years after it was passed was baked into the law that came into effect in October 2021.

Momentum pushing back against the opening of the online market in 2021 is coming from left-wing and centrist parties, demonstrating how discontent with gambling has crossed the Dutch political divide.

NOGA appealed for a reprieve ahead of the review.

“There is really not enough hard data to make sensible decisions at the moment, which is why a lot of research is now being done,” said NOGA.

“Let's wait for those results and then have a substantive discussion and make decisions that will protect online players as best as possible against problematic gambling and gambling addiction,” it said.

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