Dutch Regulator Wants To Masquerade As Real Players

March 21, 2024
The Netherlands Gambling Authority plans to conduct “mystery shopping” at licensed operators, as it warns that industry excesses are still fanning the flames of political discontent.

The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) plans to conduct “mystery shopping” at licensed operators, as it warns that industry excesses are still fanning the flames of political discontent.

The soon-to-be departing president of the KSA has said the regulator is asking for permission to conduct secret tests of gambling operator customer compliance.

In a blog post, René Jansen said the KSA has asked the minister for legal protection, Franc Weerwind, for permission to set up fake gamblers, including linking them to real bank accounts, so investigators can deposit and gamble on the sites under the regulator’s supervision.

The KSA has been criticised in the Dutch media for its inability to accurately assess the customer experience of its licence holders.

Weerwind may not be the minister in charge of gambling for much longer, as politicians in The Hague creep closer to agreeing on a deal to form a new coalition government.

Elections took place in the Netherlands in November, but discussions to form a government have progressed slowly, in large part because many parties refuse to support the leader of the far-right party PVV, Geert Wilders, as a candidate for Prime Minister.

A breakthrough earlier in March, after Wilders dropped his campaign for leader despite his party holding the most seats in parliament, means that a new government is on the horizon.

The KSA’s Jansen noted that although gambling is unlikely to be high on the agenda of coalition negotiations, the industry is in a precarious position.

“Political attention to gambling and the risks associated with it is growing,” he said. 

“That is not surprising: stories of players who have gotten into trouble due to their gambling behaviour occur regularly. That kind of excess is unacceptable, and it is certainly a good thing that attention is being paid to it.”

Jansen, who will retire in July and is set to be replaced by gambling policy veteran Michel Groothuizen, also reiterated his view that operators partly have themselves to blame for the political blowback they are currently enduring.

“I have mentioned it before: the great (negative) attention for the market is partly due to the actions of online providers,” he said.

“In many cases, excesses can only occur because the player who loses control is given the opportunity to continue playing. Because a provider does not intervene quickly enough or does not take the right measures.”

Several members of parliament are adamant that the entire system for regulation should be rolled back to a time before licensing, and although that nuclear option has not yet gathered enough momentum to truly threaten the online industry, the past 18 months have been politically dire for gambling companies.

Several “motions” calling for tough new measures continue to be proposed and approved in parliament. The ongoing ban on untargeted advertising began life as a parliamentary motion, for example, and politicians recently approved calls for tougher enforcement and cross-operator deposit limits, which are being considered by the government.

More motions are expected in April when a plenary debate is scheduled on gambling policy, although a specific date for the session has yet to be confirmed.

The second of the three-stage ban on advertising is due to kick in this July when it will become illegal for gambling companies to sponsor events. Existing sports sponsorships will be allowed to continue until July 2025.

The KSA has reportedly requested that operators supply it with details of sponsorship contracts they currently have with third parties.

According to reports in Casino Nieuws, operators have been sent forms to supply details such as how their advertising is displayed and what kinds of media they sponsor.

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