Increase in Dutch Gambling Ads Prompts Legislative Debate

  • The Dutch regulator reported an average of 40 gambling ads in one hour of television
  • The minister for legal protection acknowledged that boundaries have been stretched
  • New legislation could come within as soon as one year
  • Operators have already agreed to drop radio, outdoor, and print ads. 
Lotto balls with one painted like the Netherlands flag
The rising prevalence of gambling advertisements in the Netherlands could force the government to get involved. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Controversy over Dutch gambling visibility

Internal debates continue as the Dutch gambling regulator reported a peak of 40 gambling ads per hour on television.

promising “sharp, clear standards” for gambling ad regulation

The Dutch minister for legal protection, Franc Weeerwind, is promising “sharp, clear standards” for gambling ad regulation as speculation and controversy shroud the increasing number of betting-related commercials.

The Netherlands launched regulated online gambling back in October, and the increasing number of ads is one of the many unresolved spillovers. 

Regulating gambling ads

Politicians have openly opposed the prevalence of Dutch gambling since it was legalized last year. This has caused many within the government to seek the banishment of related television ads.

Weerwind has acknowledged the potential peril of the limited regulations, stating several operators were “stretching the boundaries” of the current ordinances.

The Dutch gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) reported last week that upwards of 40 gambling ads were shown within one hour of television. This peak occurred between 11pm and midnight and is more evidence for anti-gambling legislators.

there has been a “clear call” for change

Weerwind does not favor banning gambling ads, but is receptive to concerns from individuals in government. The minister admitted there has been a “clear call” for change; new legislation may be pushed through in one year as opposed to the usual two.

KSA has been busy since the legal gambling market launched, most notably investigating 25 illegal gambling websites. It also headed the initial launch sequence and was in charge of distributing gambling licenses to operators. The new task of creating advertising regulations is on par with its role in the developing Dutch market.

KSA’s role in the future of gambling

The KSA views gambling advertisements as necessary, but in need of regulation. 

Operators have found loopholes in current legislation that allows them to indirectly target susceptible younger audiences; this conflicts with the rule stating that audiences under 25 may not be targeted with ads. 

Companies have achieved this by using role models, specifically retired footballers, who do not directly meet the criteria, but are still popular with most people in the country. 

We see that the sector is stretching the boundaries.”

“We see that the sector is stretching the boundaries,” said Weerwind. “My conclusion is that we need to set sharp, clear standards. So we’re going to stop role models.”

The Netherlands Online Gaming Association (NOGA) has feared negative backlash over gambling ads since the market launched. The competition for new and returning visitors forced the operators’ hands, however, causing the current problem. The KSA feels that ads are necessary, but in need of responsible oversight— this means lessening the current frequency. 

The most popular television gambling ads were for the lottery and online betting platforms. Over 35 advertisements were shown between 9-10 pm, and more than 40 from 11 pm-midnight, per data from last October-December. Gambling ads are not allowed to be shown on TV from 6am-9pm.

KSA chairman René Jansen weighed in on the matter and supported the development of Dutch gambling.

“The objective of the modernization of the gambling policy is to channel players from illegal to legal offerings,” said Jansen. “This cannot be done without advertising.”

Regulators cited data that €50m was spent on gambling ads in December and January. Operators have already agreed to drop radio, outdoor, and print ads. 

The KSA has also issued warnings to companies targeting minors and showing ads during sports matches.