According to the Dutch national newspaper NRC, the number of people engaging in online gambling has increased by over 450,000 since the Netherlands legalized online gambling in 2021. According to internal government documents obtained through the Open Government Act by the newspaper, the Dutch gambling regulator, the Kansspelautoriteit, warned the government that advertising gambling activities would increase the number of people affected by gambling problems.
But the ministers decided to take a more liberal approach toward gambling advertising. They wanted to convince players who gambled online through illegal online casinos to move to licensed gambling platforms. But many gambling advertisements feature celebrities, such as illusionist Hans Klok, model Kim Feenstra, and footballer Wesley Sneijder, attracting the attention of people who had never gambled before.
The country, however, did not introduce a gambling advertising code before legalizing online gambling. And that prompted the Consumentenbond consumer association to abandon all consultations. Sandra Molenaar, director of the Consumentenbond, told journalists from NRC that the commercial interest of the iGaming industry appeared to be more important for the Dutch government than people’s well-being.
Operators are Prohibited from Sending Marketing Materials to Young Adults Under 24 Years as of July 1
The government’s goal was to redirect 80% of online gamblers to legal gambling sites within three years, and according to the newspaper, it achieved its target in just several months. NRC also claims that at least 61% of all 762,000 online gamblers in the Netherlands are new. Furthermore, many gamblers are young adults, which is even more alarming. On July 1, the new gambling advertising standards became effective in the Netherlands, prohibiting untargeted gambling advertising. Operators are required to prevent gambling advertisements from reaching individuals below the age of 24.
The Dutch gambling regulator revealed that there are more than 750,000 online gamblers in the country, who usually lose approximately €310 per person per month. According to NRC, a whole new industry with a turnover of €1 million emerged on the surface after the Netherlands legalized online gambling.
The state-owned gambling operator Toto is believed to be the major advertiser in the country. However, the other licensed operators, including Holland Casino, have also invested millions in advertising. Last January, the consumer program Kassa revealed that Toto violated the law by sending gambling advertisements to young adults via email. As a result, the gambling watchdog fined Toto €400,000. Four other operators were slapped with financial penalties for targeting young adults.
Many people have expressed their negative opinion against gambling advertising, especially after Socialist Party (SP) member Michiel van Nispen urged lawmakers to impose a ban on such commercials. The Trimbos Institute of mental health and addiction also opined that the number of gambling commercials is “shocking” and warned regulators that the amount of advertising determines the size of a given market.
According to Belgian justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, 40% of a gambling company’s profits come from people with gambling problems. Belgium also introduced a ban on gambling advertising earlier this month.