Too many ads: The Netherlands restricts online gambling advertising

Online games of chance have been allowed in the Netherlands for less than two years, but the country bans non-targeted advertising because the number of ads for online gambling and betting has skyrocketed.

online betting
Illustration | © Thom Holmes

The Netherlands will prohibit non-targeted advertising for online games of chance, the ministry of Justice announced on April 19.

Online games of chance – online casinos, blackjack, machine slots, poker, gambling, lotteries, sports betting – have been allowed in the Netherlands since October 2021. But 22 months after the Remote Gambling Act was enacted, authorities strongly restrict their advertising opportunities in order to mitigate the risks associated with the use.

The ministry of Justice and Security will ban radio and TV commercials and billboards on the street from July 1. Sponsorships for online games of chance will also be forbidden after a transition period. It will, for example, hit sponsorships of TV programs or the sponsors of sports clubs as they are also considered non-targeted communication. TV program sponsorships will remain allowed until July 2024 and until July 2025 for sports clubs so that they can find other contracts and resources.

A surge in advertising since online gambling became legal

The move comes as advertising from the newly-allowed industry players skyrocketed in a few months, which made “rapid adjustment necessary,” according to the government’s statement. As of September 2022, twenty-two companies received a license to operate since online gambling became legal, leading to fierce competition for market shares.

About 80 million euros (88 million dollars) of revenue – money gambled minus prizes paid out – is generated online monthly, according to the regulator of gambling services in the Netherlands. The average loss per player account, a player can have several accounts, is 153 euros per month (168 dollars). More than 23,000 people are included in a registry, which licensed companies need to be connected to, that excludes them from playing.

Advertising is necessary to promote the legal offer of online gambling so that people do not play illegally. At the same time, as a government, we also have a duty to protect vulnerable groups from the risks of online gambling. With this ban, vulnerable groups, especially young people, will be less exposed to these advertisements and we will limit the temptation to engage in risky games of chance,” stated the minister for Legal protection Franc Weerwind, from the social liberal party Democrats 66.

Another step in the fight against the money-hungry gambling industry – and finally getting rid of those irritating ads,” reacted to the announcement Mirjam Bikker, the Christian Union party leader.

When the government allowed online gambling in 2021, it justified it would allow supervising and controlling the industry, protecting players who already go illegally on foreign unlicensed and sometimes unscrupulous websites, and better prevent vulnerable people from addictions.

Worried by the quick surge in advertising, the House of Representatives asked the government to amend the legislation for over a year.

Targeted advertising remains legal

Only two months after online gambling was effectively authorized, the House of Representatives adopted a motion to ban non-targeted advertising, including retargeting users who visited a website, initiated by Ms. Bikker, Michiel van Nispen, a Socialist Party member of Parliament, and Anne Kuik, from the Christian Democratic Appeal. The Christian Union and the Christian Democratic Appeal are minority parties in the governing coalition.

In October, Ms. Bikker pleaded for an immediate ban on non-targeted advertising so that it would take effect before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November and December amid calls for boycotting the competition over environment protection and human rights issues.

Online sports betting is vastly popular among young sports fans. Nearly all 18 teams of the Eredivisie, the top male football (soccer) league in the Netherlands, have an online gambling company as a partner. Dick Advocaat, a longtime football coach with three stints with the Netherlands national team, and Wesley Sneijder, a 2010 World Cup finalist, were some of the public figures promoting online betting.

Last week, the English Premier League announced it would not allow online betting sponsors on the team jerseys from 2026. Last year, a royal decree in Belgium prohibited any form of advertising for gambling and games of chance.

In June last year, Mr. Weerwind banned the use of celebrities to promote games of chance after several Dutch public figures started appearing in advertisements promoting online gambling. He also announced he was working on a ban on non-targeted advertising. Then in October, he said it would not be ready by January but probably in March 2023 because of the legislative procedure.

Targeted advertising on the Internet, social media, video-on-demand platforms, or through direct mailing will remain legal. But while games of chance are allowed from 18, advertising will need to target clearly people aged over 24, and companies will need to be able to prove that at least 95 percent of people reached by the communication were older than 24.

Related Articles

Back to top button