National Rapporteur: Hold Providers Liable for Gambling Addiction

October 3, 2023 | Online Gambling

In his first report as the Addiction Report, Arnt Schellekens provides advice to prevent “unnecessarily many people” keep getting into trouble.

NETHERLANDS (September 28, 2023) — A maximum amount must be set for online gamblers that they can jointly lose at all companies. And providers must be held legally liable if they do too little to protect players from gambling addiction and spending sky-high amounts of money.

These are two of the more than twenty recommendations from the National Rapporteur on Addictions to the outgoing cabinet. State Secretary Van Ooijen will send the report by rapporteur Arnt Schellekens, entitled Gambling with health, to the House of Representatives this morning.

‘Debt, depression and suicidality’.

It is the first report by this National Rapporteur, who was appointed at the end of last year to gain more insight into the impact of addictions on public health and society. Schellekens concludes that online gambling, which was legalized in the Netherlands two years ago, “unnecessarily causes problems for many people, ranging from debt to depression and suicidality”.

It is not yet possible to determine exactly how many people are affected. The Gaming Authority (Ksa), the regulator for the industry, previously calculated that the new system has generated hundreds of thousands of new players and that the companies earned 1.1 billion euros from it last year.

The same Ksa concluded after investigation that the companies were seriously neglecting their ‘duty of care’ for the players. But because in practice it takes a long time before people report to addiction care, it is not yet known how many additional people have become addicted to gambling.

Award for protecting the vulnerable

Schellekens believes that one of the weaknesses in the system is that players can open an account with different gambling companies without those accounts being linked to each other. Although players at all these companies have to set personal playing limits, there is no check on the basis of salary slips, for example, whether someone can afford the specified maximum losses.

For example, a gambler with a net income of 2,000 euros per month can gamble twice that amount within a few hours without alarm bells ringing anywhere. That is why the rapporteur advocates establishing “overarching playing limits”. This may mean that each player is examined to see exactly what he or she can afford.

It is also conceivable that there will be one maximum loss amount for all gamblers in the Netherlands. That amount will probably be too low for some people with a high income. But in the eyes of Schellekens, that is the price they have to pay for the protection of the much larger group of vulnerable people.

The gambling sector counters that linking accounts is technically complicated or even impossible. According to the National Rapporteur on Addictions, although there is a “challenge” in that area, experiences in other countries show that it is indeed possible.

‘Pressure is necessary’

The same applies to Schellekens’ plea for a measure that has already been taken in Austria: holding providers liable if “the player’s gaming behavior harms his or her subsistence due to failure to properly comply with the duty of investigation and care.”

This requires that it is clearly stated on paper what exactly is expected of gambling companies to prevent gambling addiction among their customers. According to Schellekens, it has now become clear that providers need this kind of pressure to really work on protecting risk players.

Schellekens also recommends a further restriction of gambling advertisements in line with that for cigarettes and a ban on or at least limitation of the riskiest games.

Minister is going to tighten things up

Minister Weerwind for Legal Protection had previously announced that he indeed plans to tighten things up based on the first experiences with the legalization of online gambling. It should become clear by the end of this year exactly what steps Weerwind wants to take.


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