René Jansen Addresses Providers for the Last Time at Gaming in Holland

June 10, 2024 | Gambling

Published on June 6, 2024
At Gaming in Holland, chairman René Jansen gave his last speech to providers. What is the current state of the online gambling market? He reflects on the introduction of the Remote Gambling Act, introduces new rules for responsible gambling, and emphasizes the need for careful compliance by operators. Finally, he warns of the risks of excessive advertising during sporting events this summer. Read the full English speech below.

Speech Gaming in Holland

Good morning, everybody,

First of all, I’d like to thank the organisers for allowing me to speak here once again. This will be the last time I do so in this setting, where we have already exchanged so many thoughts and ideas about the market. Today I would therefore like to examine the current state of the online market, but I certainly intend to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future as well. In the dynamic gambling market, there is always something going on, so it goes without saying that there is always plenty to talk about.

Let me start by reflecting on the start of my own adventure at the Kansspelautoriteit (Ksa), and the introduction of the Remote Gambling Act (Wet Kansspelen op Afstand, Koa). Given that you should never dwell too long on the past, I will then move on to reflect on the renewed Policy Rule on Responsible Gambling (Beleidsregel Verantwoord spelen) and the steps we are going to take in that area. Finally, I will remind you, for one last time, of your responsibilities and give you some advice for the future. I obviously can’t pass up that opportunity on this occasion.

When I took over as chairman of the Ksa in October 2018, we were about to prepare for the entry into force of the Remote Gambling Act and the opening up of the online market. While the previous Ksa Board had already done some preliminary work, the bill was still in the Senate at that time. Only in February 2019  did we get the go-ahead to prepare the licensing process. It was an incredibly intensive period, during which the Ksa scaled up enormously and had to enlist the help of a large team of internal and external experts to shift the mountains of work that had to be done. It is perhaps a good idea to remind ourselves of the reasons for all that work.

Opening of the online market

I would like to repeat a number of sentences from the explanatory memorandum that accompanied the Remote Gambling Act. First of all, we wanted to do something about illegal supply. After all, the borderless nature of the internet, the ongoing request of Dutch consumers for online gambling and rapid technological developments, among other things, meant that comprehensive enforcement was impossible without a responsible, reliable and controllable legal alternative. Addiction prevention was another important reason, given that preventing high-risk players from developing into problem players requires a licensing system that provides safeguards to protect against addiction risks. The continued advances in digitalisation and the massive and permanent use of mobile devices mean that these objectives, written in 2013, are at least as relevant in 2024 as they were eleven years ago. Now, almost six years after I started as chairman, we have twenty-nine licensed online gambling operators in a market that has grown year on year. With that growth also comes growing responsibility.

Policy Rule on Responsible Gambling

The mission of the Ksa is ‘gambling safely’, in line with the spirit of the Remote Gambling Act. Our job is to regulate the need for a reliable, controllable and responsible betting and gambling offering. Regulating the operators’ duty of care has started to play an increasingly important role in this respect. It was against that backdrop that we announced our intention to amend the Policy Rule on Responsible Gambling. That process is now complete, and we have worked hard to incorporate various elements of the extensive consultation responses, for example by creating scope for customisation and further clarifying or tightening certain requirements. The final policy rule has now been published and has therefore come into effect.

Among other things we have now set a net deposit cap per month at which point players will be asked for income details. The threshold is 300 euros for young adults and 700 euros for anyone over twenty-three. As a result, operators must now contact the player upon reaching that threshold and carry out an affordability check if the player wants to exceed that amount. The reason why we are doing this is to curb excessive gambling behaviour and it is also an important measure in terms of preventing addiction. The real-time monitoring obligation has also been introduced and requires operators to intervene within an hour in the event of potentially excessive gambling behaviour.

I am very proud that we have put this package of measures in place within such a short space of time and within the boundaries set by current legislation. Many of the sad stories we have seen and heard in recent years, including those relating to significant losses, could have been avoided if these measures had been implemented earlier. The Ksa’s aim is to reduce those excesses to zero in the future, for which the ball is now in the operators’ court. We hope that these revamped rules will serve as an additional impetus for operators to reassess and revise addiction prevention policies and the way their duty of care is implemented.

Supervising duty of care online operators

Not only have we now introduced a new policy rule, but we are also going to step up our supervision of the operators’ duty of care. To this end we are setting up a temporary Online Duty of Care department, which will focus entirely on supervising that aspect of the legislation and regulations. The department will issue warning letters and take a short and sharp hits approach, as well as impose significant sanctions and penalty procedures if necessary. This additional supervising department is currently being set up and we have committed to it being operational by the first of September. The process will involve recruiting between ten and fifteen new members of staff. As you will no doubt understand, supervising operators’ compliance with their obligations is our top priority.

However, this does not mean, of course, that we are neglecting other issues. The Minister for Legal Protection has received several motions from the House of Representatives on the specific subject of current gambling advertising policy. If it was up to a majority of the House, all gambling adverts would be banned, but I have already expressed my doubts as to whether this would be appropriate. This is partly due to the explanatory memorandum to the Remote Gambling Act, which I just quoted from: enabling licensees to offer an appropriate and attractive range of games would create a situation in which Dutch players would no longer need to engage with illegal operators. However, this would only be possible if the players in question are properly aware of whether any game is legal or not and that would surely require some form of advertising.

Non-targeted advertising

Recent years have been characterised by a whole host of rules to restrict advertising being implemented over a short period of time. The ban on untargeted advertising has been applicable since July 2023. The effect of the ban is reflected in our latest Monitoring Report and it is clear that it primarily affects people who are not players. The number of visits to gambling sites by people who are not gambling themselves has fallen sharply, and I see that as a positive development.

The ban on untargeted advertising caused a lot of controversy when it entered into force, and I would be lying if I said that it has not caused problems for us as the regulator. The 95% rule, which requires operators to ensure that the group of vulnerable or young adult players who see internet advertising does not exceed 5 percent, is difficult to manage in practice, not only in terms of implementation, but also in terms of supervision. We are therefore in talks with the Ministry about the difficulties associated with this legislation.

In any event we are going to focus our supervisory work primarily on the obligation to provide an opportunity for people to exclude themselves from gambling advertising. We aim to provide further guidance on this issue during the autumn and will strictly supervise the situation after that.

A summer of sport

While we are on the subject of advertising, I would like to say something to you about the coming summer. It is going to be a fantastic summer, not only because I’m going to enjoy my retirement, but also because we have three major sporting events coming up, namely UEFA EURO 2024, the Olympic Games and the Tour de France. We know that sports and betting go hand in hand. We also know that events like these are reasons for operators to significantly ramp up their marketing machines. So that’s why I again want to issue a warning and advise you to choose moderation, rather than push the envelope. For the gambling market, which is under so much scrutiny, it seems crucial to me that everyone shows their best side.

Because I also know that competition is fierce, I don’t rule out the possibility of there being operators who nevertheless try to push the boundaries and possibly even go beyond them. That’s where we, as the Ksa, will have to be very much on the ball, just as we were during the last World Cup in Qatar. We will focus on quick interventions and short, sharp hits to stop any violations in their tracks. Major or repeated infringements may also result in penalty proceedings.

Incidentally, the above applies not only to legal operators because illegal operators will also be dealt with as robustly as possible. So, this summer our Enforcement Department will again be keeping a particularly keen eye on advertising and the activities of illegal operators on the Dutch market and will intervene to take them down at the earliest opportunity.

Awareness campaign for young adults

Finally, in the context of our summer programme, we want to arm consumers, especially young adults, against the gambling-related temptations they may be exposed to this summer, for example through sports sponsorship. That is why the Ksa is running its own awareness campaign over the summer, in collaboration with Loket Kansspel, which will encourage young people not to gamble away their joy for sports. Placing a bet on a sporting event is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should not become a problem in the long run. That’s something we want to make this vulnerable target group particularly aware of this summer, using a targeted, direct approach.

Uncertainty of political choices

Ladies and gentlemen, I have almost arrived at the end of my speech. When I took office at the Ksa on the first of October 2018 there was a lot of political uncertainty about whether the Senate would pass the Remote Gambling Act. On top of that you may remember that the intended privatisation of Holland Casino did not get through the same Senate.

My imminent departure is once again shrouded in political uncertainty. All of you will be aware of the current political climate and the uncertainties about the future of both land-based and online licensed gambling markets. I must confess that I am sincerely concerned about the effects of proposals such as a hefty increase in gambling tax and the partial banning of remote gambling again.

As a regulator, keeping our mission ‘Gambling safely’ in mind, we are convinced that players are far better off in a licensed market. Supervising compliance with legal obligations can only be realised with legal and licensed operators. Besides that, I also consider recent important achievements such as the Exclusion Register Cruks and the Addiction Prevention Fund (Verslavingspreventiefonds).

Therefore, the Ksa will keep a close eye on the channelisation rate and how it might be affected by upcoming regulation. We have heard your concerns about the rise of illegal offering on the Dutch market, and I want to assure you we take that threat seriously. While intensifying our supervision on the duty of care, we will also keep on battling illegal offering and its enablers. With a viable industry, a high channelisation rate and intensive attention to illegal offering, we can together ensure that gambling continues to be a source of genuine entertainment for almost all players.

A focus on the player

With that I can conclude with some words I have been uttering for six years now, but which have never actually lost their impact: the focus in gambling should be on the players! That means there must be an attractive provision which meets consumer needs, and which must be easy to find. It also means that important business decisions should always be made in the player’s best interest. Care for the player must always be the priority!

The sentiment in our society regarding gambling depends on the choices you make as an industry. So please, do the right thing and put those safeguards against problem gambling in place so that I can hand over the baton to my successor Michel Groothuizen with a clear conscience, knowing that he will be speaking to a room full of licensed operators once again next year.

Thank you for your attention!

SOURCE: De Kansspelautoriteit (Ksa).

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