Dutch Trade Groups Fear Black Market Surge

April 20, 2023
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Dutch trade groups fear that the raft of incoming advertising restrictions could lead to more consumers using the black market.

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Dutch trade groups fear that the raft of incoming advertising restrictions could lead to more consumers using the black market.

On April 19, minister for legal protection Franc Weerwind confirmed the details of the partial prohibition in an announcement, confirming that from July 1 radio, TV commercials and billboards on the street will be totally banned.

Advertising on the internet and television-on-demand will only be allowed under strict conditions.

The Licensed Dutch Online Games of Chance Providers (VNLOK) trade association said it supports the minister's efforts to protect vulnerable groups, but fears the changes could take away a key way to distinguish licensed operators.

Helma Lodders, chairperson of VNLOK, said: “We understand the concerns of a society that advertising should not lead to more problem players. However, this decision ignores the importance of advertising and ignores the social responsibility that providers already take.”

VNLOK believes the decree “ignores the importance of advertising for online games of chance”.

Similarly, the Dutch Online Gambling Association (NOGA) warned that after the entry into force of the new law, there is a need “to guard against the rise in participation at illegal providers of online gambling”.

Peter-Paul de Goeij, director of NOGA, said: “This does not appear to be an unfounded fear: in Italy, the advertising ban has led to an increase in participation in illegal gambling providers. And precisely these illegal providers do not undertake a duty of care towards their players in the form of accessible information, screening, monitoring of gaming behaviour and drawing attention to problematic gambling behaviour."

NOGA also wants more effort put into tackling illegal providers who still advertise online.

“To this day, two out of five paid gambling ads on Google.nl are from illegal providers. As long as that leak is not plugged, Dutch gambling advertising policy is ineffective, because it is precisely online that consumers cannot easily distinguish between legal and illegal,” De Goeij said.

Additionally, the trade group fears that the new restrictions will have an adverse effect on operators that are still waiting on receiving their licence.

“This makes the playing field more uneven for new entrants and creates an additional barrier to becoming a licensed provider. While we actually aim for as many licensed providers as possible to take responsibility when it comes to duty of care and good information,” De Goeij said.

According to the Netherlands Gaming Authority’s (KSA) 2022 annual report, an estimated 85 percent of players now play with legal providers.

Weerwind first announced the reform in a letter to parliament dated March 17, 2022.

Complications surrounding the proposed changes were highlighted by the Advisory Division of the Council of State when it gave its opinion on them in January 2023, saying the restrictions “have not been sufficiently elaborated”.

The government was criticised by the Advisory Division for not working out how to prevent the ban from being circumvented, recommending “supplementing the explanatory notes to the draft decree and amending the draft decree if necessary”.

Despite saying it understood the government’s aim to protect vulnerable groups and prevent gambling addiction, the review body claimed the government had not undertaken an impact assessment of its proposals.

The Advisory Division suggests the government address this in the explanatory notes for the draft decree, as well as provide an explanation as to why the ban is still necessary.

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