The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) has fined TOTO Online, which is part of the Dutch State Lottery, €400,000 for advertising to young adults aged 18 to 23 years-old.
René Jansen, chairman of the KSA, said the decision, which was made public on November 25, was made in line with the country’s laws designed to protect vulnerable groups, including young adults.
“The brains of young people are still developing. As a result, they are extra vulnerable to developing a gambling addiction. Gaming providers must fully respect the rules intended to protect vulnerable groups. That didn't happen here and that's why there is a fine,” Jansen said.
TOTO Online, which operates the website www.toto.nl and the Toto Online app, sent “frequent promotional messages to the young adult players registered with it, both by e-mail and via the TOTO Online app, in the form of emails and push messages in which the TOTO Online offer was promoted, including bonuses”, according to the detailed sanction decision.
It also sent advertising messages to its entire customer base from October 1, 2021 (the date on which the legal market for online games of chance opened) to February 1, 2022.
These emails and push messages also contained recruitment and advertising messages (referred to by TOTO Online as commercial messages) and in some cases also bonuses.
The operator has stopped these advertising methods since February 1, 2022.
TOTO Online argued with the KSA that its advertising should not be deemed as "aimed at" young adults, as it was sent to all players.
The KSA acknowledged that TOTO Online never exclusively targeted young adults or sent them, as a group, commercial emails or push messages, or communication specifically (in terms of form or content) aimed at young adults.
However, the regulator concluded that TOTO Online should have taken measures not to direct recruitment and advertising activities at young adults.
"It should have excluded the young adults registered with her from her recruitment and advertising activities by removing them from the mailing list. This is technically possible and feasible, especially now that TOTO Online is aware of the age of all registered players from the moment of registration," according to the decision.
The KSA was initially alerted to the advertising after one of its supervisors watched a TV broadcast including an 18 year-old claiming he had received emails from TOTO.