Online Gambling and the Dutch Market
Since the green light was given to online gambling in the Netherlands in October 2021, an unexpected 450,000 individuals, a concerning number of which are young adults, have commenced their betting journey, reports the NRC, a Dutch daily newspaper. This revelation, backed by numerous government documents acquired through the Open Government Act, sheds light on the uneasy path the Dutch government has tread, against the advice of gambling regulators, towards liberalising gambling advertisement policies.
The Impact of Advertising and Its Unintended Consequences
In a bid to lure gamblers from unregulated foreign platforms to Dutch legal gambling websites, the government appeared to inadvertently cultivate a new market demographic. High-profile advertising campaigns featuring well-known figures such as illusionist Hans Klok, model Kim Feenstra, and footballer Wesley Sneijder, not only reached their intended targets but also managed to entice hundreds of thousands of first-time betters.
Consumentenbond, the consumer association, walked out of discussions in response to the lack of an industry-wide advertising code before the legalisation, with Director Sandra Molenaar telling NRC, “Apparently, the commercial interest of the gambling industry outweighs the welfare of consumers.”
A Rapidly Growing Industry and the Road Ahead
Recent restrictions on “untargeted” online gambling advertising are now in effect, though sponsoring TV programmes, events, and sports teams is still permitted. As the Netherlands’ online gambling industry rapidly expands with a turnover exceeding €1 billion, critics claim the government’s swift success in drawing gamblers to legal sites has come at a price. According to the NRC’s analysis of a government briefing, “No less than 61 percent of the 762,000 Dutch online gamblers are new.”
Opposition towards online gambling advertising has been mounting, led by voices such as SP parliament member Michiel van Nispen and the Trimbos Institute of mental health and addiction, which declared the volume of advertising “shocking.”
As this new industry finds its footing amid criticism and regulatory fines, all eyes are on the Netherlands as it navigates the complex intersection of commercial interest, consumer welfare, and the unforeseen impact of mass advertising.
- Regulatory Compliance: The surge in new bettors and subsequent fines for advertising to young adults underline the need for operators to strictly adhere to compliance guidelines. As the industry evolves, understanding and following regulatory norms should be at the forefront to avoid legal complications and potential reputational damage.
- Responsibility and Consumer Protection: With a significant influx of new, and potentially vulnerable, gamblers, operators have a heightened duty of care. Developing robust mechanisms to prevent underage gambling and safeguard players from addictive behaviour is crucial, not only ethically but for long-term customer trust and retention.
- Adjustments to Marketing Strategies: The recent backlash and restrictions on untargeted online gambling advertising necessitate a review and potential shift in marketing strategies. iGaming companies should tailor their advertising to avoid regulatory backlash, focusing on engaging existing legal gamblers and ensuring marketing content is appropriately targeted.