Franc Weerwind, the Netherlands’ latest gambling minister, has erred on the side of caution in how the country should approach further gambling reforms following the opening of KOA last year.
Replacing former minister Sander Dekker at the start of the year in a cabinet reshuffle, Weerwind is charged with overseeing Dutch gambling’s regulatory policy.
This week, the new minister faced questions from the Kamer on the KOA Regime’s next regulatory phase, which has seen industry advertising placed at the top of the Dutch market’s agenda.
The Minister was also probed on whether he agreed with Belgian counterpart Vincent Van Quickenborne’s opinion that ‘gambling is the new smoking and everyone agrees tobacco advertising should not be allowed’.
Van Quickenborne, of Belgium’s Open VLD Party (Flemish Democrats), has proposed a draft decree to enforce a ban on gambling advertising, mirroring actions taken in Spain and Italy.
Weerwind responded that the government was observing KOA advertising activities closely, however, he did ‘identify with the statement of Minister Van Quickenborne’.
“We know that every cigarette is bad for your health. Games of chance are a form of leisure for many people and do not cause any problems for a very large proportion of people.
“Gambling does have risks. Because of these risks, it is important that players are well protected. This happens with legal providers, who have to adhere to strict rules.”
Though confident of KOA rules, Weerwind acknowledged wider concerns of ‘excessive and untargeted advertising that could jeopardise the safeguards of vulnerable people’.
Since October’s launch, the government has updated advertising rules from 30 June, which will prohibit licensed operators from using celebrities and sports stars from promoting gambling services across all media formats.
Leading Dutch gambling’s regulatory policy, Weerwind announced that he was currently drafting an ‘Addiction Prevention Decree’ that will be presented to the Kamer before the end of summer.
The decree will put forward further additional advertising safeguards that KOA incumbents must observe, in addition to safer gambling duties aimed at preventing addiction.
Kamer MPs would further question Weerwind on concerns related to a 50% increase in gambling participation recorded since 1 October.
The Minister responded that due to the regulated KOA regime, the Dutch government had secured a comprehensive oversight of the market, in which it understood player engagement.
Since the launch of the KOA regime last October, Dutch consumers were engaging with licensed gambling websites, which Weerwind stated had skewed observations.
He explained: “This does not automatically mean that the total number of hours played has increased. This includes, for example, visits from people who have only visited the website, but who do not have a player account.”
Weerwind stated that his concern was on the 17% of accounts created by players aged 18-24, a group representing 11% of the population.
The Minister concluded: “The protection of vulnerable people is better guaranteed with legal
providers than with illegal providers. Where even better protection appears to be necessary, as is the case with advertising for games of chance, we will take measures.
“The Gaming Authority will come up with a new measurement in the autumn. I will inform your House about the developments of the online gambling market, based on the data available at that time.”