Dutch industry representatives have expressed deep concern that incoming advertising restrictions will drive players to illegal sites.
Dr. Alan Littler, a gambling lawyer at Kalff Katz & Franssen, and Peter-Paul de Goeij, director of the Netherlands Online Gambling Association (NOGA), both expressed frustration that the new advertising restrictions, set to take effect on July 1, may drive away instead of protect consumers.
The pair were speaking during a Gaming in Holland webinar on Tuesday (May 16).
“This market is moving in the right direction and it would be a pity if we started losing players to organised crime again,” said de Goeij.
An incoming advertising decree will ban untargeted advertising for online gambling, which means it does not include casinos or offline slot machines.
It will also prohibit advertising on all media other than online channels, including public spaces, on television or in printed media.
Online advertising will be subject to three conditions. First, the viewer of the advertisement must be able to opt out of seeing the ad. Second, the advertiser must make sure that “best measures” are taken to ensure that ads are not seen by those who have opted out, young adults (defined as 18 to 23 year olds) and other risk groups. Finally, these best efforts must guarantee that at least 95 percent of those who see gambling ads are 24 years or older.
This marks a change from the draft of the law, which originally stated 100 percent, but now provides a 5 percent margin of error.
When asked how operators could ensure they meet this number, de Goeij said: “We can't ensure … but [the] reality is we cannot prevent even a minor from seeing advertising. For instance, if it's on his dad's mobile phone, and he sees an ad for online gambling, so this is reality. We cannot prevent this from happening. What we can do, however, is do our best to prevent that online gambling advertising is seen by vulnerable groups such as the younger demographic.”
There will be a one-year transitional period, from the first of July for existing contracts. That is extended to two years for advertising contracts that relate to sporting events.
The question on the minds of many in the audience: does this amount to a de facto ban on gambling advertising?
“I don’t have a crystal ball, so we don’t know yet,” said de Goeij. “The way that this will be implemented, policed and enforced is unclear at the moment, and we are concerned and anxious at this moment, because we are trying to not end up with a de facto ban, because that would be detrimental to consumer protection.”
Littler conceded that technically it is still not known if advertising on one’s own website would be allowed. But de Goeij warned: “I would hope that advertising on your own website continues to be allowed as it is today. Because if not, this whole decree would defeat the purpose for which it was introduced, which is consumer protection, and not hurting channelisation.
“If you will not be allowed to advertise on your own website, and illegal operators can still do this on their own website, on Google ads, etc. Why would you want to put legal operators in such negative positioning compared to illegal operators?
“I would be completely surprised if this turns out to be the case.”
Other unanswered questions include how operators with both land-based and online verticals can properly distinguish between the two in marketing campaigns. Littler said the industry is waiting on guidance from the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA).