Duty Of Care Fines On Dutch Horizon

June 7, 2024
A new unit is being set up at the Netherlands Gambling Authority to monitor how gambling operators fulfil their duty of care, and to hand out fines to those who do not meet the regulator’s standards.

A new unit is being set up at the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) to monitor how gambling operators fulfil their duty of care, and to hand out fines to those who do not meet the regulator’s standards.

In what may be his final speech as head of the gambling regulator before he retires on July 1, KSA president René Jansen told a group of industry representatives that a new team would soon be created to monitor their behaviour.

Speaking at the Gaming in Holland conference in Amsterdam on Thursday (June 6), Jansen announced that a new “duty of care department” would be created in September, through the hiring of 10-15 new members of staff.

The unit “will issue warning letters and take a short, sharp hit approach, as well as impose significant sanctions”, said Jansen.

“Supervising operators’ compliance with these obligations is our top priority,” he said. 

Meeting duty of care standards in the Netherlands will soon include conducting affordability checks, following a new Responsible Gambling Policy that was released by the KSA earlier this week.

From October 1, any customer depositing more than €700 in a month, or €300 for those under the age of 24, will need to prove they can afford their gambling or have deposits blocked for a calendar month.

Before its new duty of care unit becomes active, the KSA will spend much of the summer focused on compliance around a series of major sporting events, including the Paris Olympics and the UEFA European Championships in Germany.

“For a gambling market which is under so much scrutiny it seems crucial to me that everyone shows their best side,” said Jansen.

“I know that competition is fierce and I don’t want to rule out the possibility of there being operators who push the boundaries and possibly even go beyond them.

“We will focus on quick interventions and short, sharp hits to stop any violations in their tracks. Major or repeated infringements may also result in penalty proceedings,” he said.

Jansen also vowed that the regulator would take action against the black market over the summer, promising it would “also be dealt with as robustly as possible”.

The retiring chief regulator lamented that he was leaving the gambling industry “shrouded in political uncertainty”, as the industry faces not only a change at the top of its regulatory authority, but also the impending arrival of a new government, alongside a generally caustic political environment.

After months of negotiations, a right-wing coalition is set to take power in the Netherlands, but the new administration dismayed the industry by announcing it would increase gambling tax by more than 7 percent to 37.8 percent of gross gambling revenue.

The arrival of new officials is also expected to do nothing to quell the massive negative political sentiment towards gambling in parliament.

It is widely expected that Franc Weerwind will be replaced as the head of the justice ministry, which has oversight for gambling, but his replacement has yet to be named.

That power vacuum cast a shadow over comments by gambling policy chief Fedor Meerts, also speaking at Gaming in Holland, who admitted “it’s quite uncertain for us what the priorities for the new government will be”.

Meerts appeared lukewarm on the prospect of a tax hike, calling it “a very sharp increase, which gives cause for concern on the effects of different gambling markets”.

“The policy objectives [of the Gambling Act] are best served by an economically viable and strictly regulated market. For some it may not be viable to operate in the Netherlands [with the new tax rate]. We continue to advise on the effects of gambling policy.”

The retiring Jansen was less diplomatic, warning it could destroy the land-based industry in the Netherlands.

“This message is what we will bring to the Ministry of Justice and everyone who wants to hear it,” he said.

Despite prevailing political uncertainty, Meerts was able to say with some confidence that a scheduled review of the Gambling Act will be published in October this year.

He also confirmed that the ministry is examining how cross-operator deposit limits could be introduced in the Netherlands, at the behest of one of many parliamentary motions calling for tougher rules.

In the face of industry scepticism at the event on Thursday, including experts parachuted in from Germany to warn about the difficulties facing its LUGAS system, Meerts said the department was considering all options.

“The idea of player limits and a single customer view when it comes to how much money you spend at legal operators makes perfect sense. As a principle it could definitely work, but the proof is in the pudding,” he said.

“We at the moment are looking very broadly at this. This stretches from what parliament has requested, a hard limit, to the system we have now.”


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