Speech René Jansen, 14-december 2022
Speech by René Jansen, Wednesday 14 December 2022, 09:10 during Breakfast Briefing, Gaming in Holland
Thank you for inviting me to say a few words at this Gaming in Holland breakfast meeting. As we have come to expect from Willem van Oort, the timing could not have been better. It has been just over a week since the Minister's progress update on remote gambling policy was published and the statutory five-yearly evaluation of the Kansspelautoriteit (Ksa, Netherlands Gambling Authority) was submitted to the Lower House of Parliament. I will be discussing both these events in more detail later on.
The online gambling market: looking back on the first year
Willem's timing also means that this meeting is taking place at the end of the year: the very first full year of legalised online gambling. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the past year in that regard. The online market is now home to 24 online licence holders.
Although it's still too early to conclude that the market has stabilised. The total of 24 licences is certainly less than we had expected. This may be partly due to the high compliance standards for Dutch laws and regulations.
For now, though, it's safe to conclude that Dutch players have managed to make the switch from illegal to legal gambling platforms. We believe around 85 out of 100 players are currently gambling through legal operators.
That is definitely good news!
I previously expressed the hope that our introduction of the Remote Gambling Act (Wet Kansspelen op afstand, Koa) would become a textbook example for the legalisation and regulation of online gambling. Unfortunately, that goal does not seem to have been achieved. Some operators still keep pushing the legal envelope. The public debate has been dominated by the shortcomings and violations.
Advertising by online gambling operators is one example of these efforts to push the legal envelope.
The flood of commercials in the last quarter of 2021 and the start of this year has already prompted political intervention, such as the ban on role models and intended bans on untargeted advertising.
The market was also urged to keep all FIFA World Cup advertising within the boundaries of the law. Unfortunately, the Ksa still had to intervene on several occasions. We will keep urging operators to use advertising wisely and with restraint. When in doubt: just don't do it!
2022 was also a unique year for the Kansspelautoriteit in one particular area.
This year marked the first fine for a licence holder, in this case for advertising to young adults, and I assume it won't be the last.
In addition to advertising, there is also much to be gained in terms of compliance with the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Prevention) Act. After investigating two operators, the Ksa found they were unable to continuously monitor their players. More than 70% of all customer assessments were rated as inadequate. Some players with high net losses were not assessed at all or were assessed too late. While we obviously need to improve the monitoring of transactions, monitoring alone won't do the trick.
One operator allowed its players to keep making deposits and playing, despite multiple 'alerts'. As it turned out, the 'alerts' didn't prompt the operator to intervene.
That needs to change, because that's just not good enough. Warning signs need to be taken seriously and trigger appropriate interventions where necessary.
In short, we are still seeing a lot of situations where operators could have done more to create a safe gambling environment. All experiences of the first year of legal online gambling show us that licence holders should realise that excesses can cause social discontent, political backlash and tighter regulations on industry.
A brief look ahead
That concludes my review of the past year. Let's take a moment to look ahead now. What can we expect from 2023?
The so-called Autumn Letter and the Ksa’s evaluation report offer some small insights. Minister Weerwind sent this policy letter – an interim review – to the Lower House of Parliament on 5 December.
He also submitted the statutory evaluation of the Kansspelautoriteit I will briefly explain the relevant issues affecting the Ksa here, and I assume Fedor Meerts will be discussing the more political aspects later on.
The policy letter focuses on two main issues: the Central Exclusion Register (Cruks) and addiction prevention. The Ksa will take steps in terms of addiction prevention, solidifying its new coordinating role in the process. One key pillar of addiction prevention, the Cruks Register, will be elaborated in further detail. I think it's safe to conclude that the Register has been successful.
Close to 30,000 people have already signed up, and that number is growing by an average of 300 citizens a week.
The system has also proved to be stable at peak times, which is certainly reassuring. However, that doesn't mean our work is done. The registration process has proved difficult for some, so we have decided to make it more user-friendly.
Efforts are currently under way to redesign the register and make it more accessible and easy to understand. Players looking to sign up should also be guided through the registration process more effectively. This should help cut down on registration errors at the front end, potentially reducing issues for operators and the Ksa down the road.
We tested the new site on the target audience last month, with positive results. We will be transitioning to the new Cruks soon during the first quarterly of 2023.
After implementation of the new user-friendly site we will also start its promotion. This will involve a relatively limited communication campaign aimed at the target audience.
In addition to focusing on the website's usability, we are also considering regulatory adjustments to Cruks. We feel current regulations leave room for improvement, a view supported by our conversations with the industry. For example, players can currently de-register after six months even if they signed up for a much longer period. The involuntary exclusion procedure also leaves room for improvement.
While this issue will also be addressed during the legislative review, the Ksa is already considering possible amendments.
Industry associations will also be involved in this process, and talks are already under way. However, the Ksa will continue to emphasise operators' own responsibilities in relation to the Exclusion Register. Inspections of gambling arcades have revealed that many players are still not being properly monitored or – in some cases – not being monitored at all. It is in all parties' interests that they take a more active role in this regard.
The Ksa was recently evaluated by the KWINK Group research agency.
The evaluation led to several recommendations, which will be taken on board. These include a greater focus on data-driven supervision and the development of a new data strategy, which will be fine-tuned over the coming year.
This will also offer operators more insight into the Ksa's data processing activities and commitments to licence holders. The Ksa will also intensify its enforcement in respect of illegal land-based gambling in collaboration with municipalities, police and other third parties.
The Ksa will improve its stakeholder management by holding regular consultations with operators and the gambling industry. We must also make some clear choices in terms of our role in educating and informing the public about safe gambling.
Finally, we are currently still developing a supervision agenda for the coming year, outlining our main priorities in this area. While we still need to discuss these aspects in more detail, I can share some key points with you here. Key monitoring priorities will include the monitoring of operators' duty of care and addiction prevention measures. The Ksa is conducting a study to assess operators' compliance with their duty of care. We have noticed that the industry is struggling to meet this requirement. We can't share much else about the study yet, besides the fact that it's currently under way.
We will also stay focused on the fight against illegal land-based and online gambling. This will involve greater visibility in the physical or land based domain.
We will also remain focused on compliance with advertising standards, especially in relation to vulnerable groups.
Finally, we will continue to remind operators of their duty to submit data to the Ksa and enforce compliance in this area. The data safe CDB has proven to be a major challenge for some operators. Although many licence holders have now migrated to the new data model, some parties are still lagging behind. Getting this CDB in order remains a crucial licensing requirement, and we aim to actively monitor compliance.
In closing: as you will have gathered, there is still plenty to do next year. That applies to us as well as to the operators. We'll talk more later on!
Thank you for your attention!