Speech René Jansen, 20 juni 2022
Speech by René Jansen, Gaming in Holland conference, 20 June 2022
Good morning everyone,
I would like to start by thanking the organisers for inviting me to speak to you today. Once again, Gaming in Holland has put together an attractive programme. And the subject of responsible gambling is not missing. In fact, it may be the most important subject of all – or at least it should be, for both the Kansspelautoriteit, Ksa, as the regulator and for the gambling operators. This is something I will explain further in a moment. At the request of the organisers of this day, I would also like to tell you a little more about data driven supervision.
But first, let us review the operators’ duty of care, which is a key element of responsible gambling. Recently, the House of Representatives held a round-table discussion on the Remote Gambling Act. I had the honour of representing the Ksa on that occasion. The position paper that the Ksa provided as a starting point for the discussion can be found on our website. In this contribution, the Ksa gave an overview of the state of play after eight months of legal online gambling. We noted that the duty of care, a key element of the broader area of responsible gambling, still has room for improvement. This is a theme that came back repeatedly during the round-table discussion, alongside discussions on advertising and addiction. There are several concerns in this regard. We are receiving frequent reports that not all land-based amusement arcades are equally diligent when it comes to checking for registration in the Central Exclusion Register, or Cruks. People registered in Cruks have told us that they were not always refused access on occasions when they gave in to the temptation to gamble, either because no checks were carried out or their registration in Cruks was ignored. As far as this situation is concerned, I can announce that we have started an investigation into this.
Online operators also need to do more to comply with their duty of care, as has been illustrated by a number of television programmes. For example, a recent episode of the investigative journalist programme Pointer put the spotlight on operators that allowed a gambler to lose tens of thousands of euros without intervening or taking sufficient action. On previous occasions, I expressed my misgivings about the way operators enforce playing limits. There have been instances of playing limits that made it possible to lose up to 100,000 euros and gamble 24/7. No-one can argue with a straight face that playing limits such as those are seriously restricting and offer sufficient protection. Does an operator really think a player with these limits plays in a conscious way and can maintain control?
The Dutch legislator has chosen to rely on players’ and operators’ own sense of responsibility by not imposing maximum limits. This forces players to make a conscious decision, based on the consideration that some players have more funds at their disposal than others and some have more time on their hands than others. These are but some of the variables and reasons to support the argument that not all gamblers should be treated equally. In the scenario envisioned by the legislator, operators create risk profiles based on the limits indicated by the gamblers themselves. The operators should not dismiss this as a mere administrative obligation.
As a consequence of the political and social debate surrounding playing limits, the Ksa has commissioned research to obtain a better picture of practice with regard to playing limits in other European countries. This research has not yet been completed. However, we have discovered that legislators in some other countries have made different choices. In Austria, players can deposit a maximum of 800 euros a week. In Germany, the maximum is 1,000 euros a month. In Norway, the maximum loss that players can incur is slightly less than 2,000 euros a month. In Sweden, the operator has a statutory duty to initiate an investigation if a gambler exceeds the deposit limit of 930 euros. These examples serve to illustrate that other avenues are open to the legislator.
I would dare to do the prediction that the government will intervene if it turns out that operators in the Netherlands do not take their responsibility seriously enough lightning fast. All this under the motto that if the carrot doesn’t work, we’ll reach for the stick. When it comes to advertising, the picture is more or less the same. Again, there is called for self-regulation and temperance. We may safely conclude that this call has initially fallen on deaf ears. Even today, there are parties that are evading self-regulation. Let us hope that the same will not be true when it comes to playing limits or – in a more general sense – taking the duty of care seriously.
I would like to ask the operators present here today to examine their conscience: Do you have a clear idea of how much disposable income the average Dutch citizen has after payment of recurring expenses? Have you ever given this any thought? According to Nibud, the National Institute for Family Finance Information, the amount that an average household - couple, two children - with a middle income and in average rental accommodation have available each month after payment of all recurring expenses is 875 euros. This is all they can spend on shopping, new clothes, unforeseen expenses and savings. One might think that there would be hardly anything left for gambling: for the average household, the remainder is barely in the tens of euros. The skyrocketing inflation and rising energy costs have exacerbated this situation. Bear in mind that this is an middle income we are talking about – not everyone earns this much. I would like to ask operators to take this into consideration when they are faced with new players who want to open an account and to perform checks when players set high limits. And that they ask control questions when high limits are specified. If a high limit is set, the question may be asked whether the player is sure that he can lose this amount of money. If the answer is 'yes', then this should be treated as an additional risk indicator to be taken seriously. I think that an operator should do everything to get to know a player – this is very well possible in our digital era with smart algorithms. Of course with the aim of minimising the risks. Our impression is that this is not happening enough with too many operators. I would say: don't go for the quick money. Do not overstep the mark of what is socially acceptable.
It goes without saying that the Ksa, as the regulator, has its own responsibility. That is why we will spend the next period investigating explicitly how our online gambling license holders are putting the main facets of their duty of care into practice. Earlier, we examined the operators’ policy plans for addiction prevention. In the coming period, we will be shifting our focus to the practical implementation of those plans. We do this in two ways. 1) We conduct thorough research into the interpretation of the duty of care and assess whether operators comply with their duty of care. 2) We will not hesitate to intervene immediately if there are concrete signs that indicate that operators are not complying with the duty of care. Such a signal is, for example, a player who can bet a lot with high stakes without hindrance. An argument like ‘I can't look into the player's wallet’ is not enough as we all understand that the vast majority of Dutch players cannot afford to lose so much money.
Regulators like the Ksa generally prefer it when organisations under their supervision comply with legislation and regulations of their own accord. As we have just seen, however, this does not always happen. It follows that operator compliance must be verified. This brings me to another subject that I would like to discuss: data driven supervision. How does it work? There is a limit to what I can tell you without letting the cat out of the bag. One condition that operators must meet before being granted an online gambling licence is setting up a data vault. This is where they store the playing system data they need to report back to the Ksa. Other reporting obligations apply as well, such as the obligations to report data on addiction prevention, consumer protection, unusual transactions and match fixing. The data provides insights and comparison material to the Ksa. To give an example: if two operators cater to more or less the same number of players, but one intervenes much more often than the other, this could prompt us to investigate. The same is true if an operator reports unusual transactions far more often than another. There may be good reasons for this, yet it still merits an investigation. There is a great number of analyses that enable the Ksa to perform its supervisory duties. We invest heavily in this expertise, as it enables ‘data-driven’ supervision.
It is time for me to wrap up. At the beginning of this speech, I mentioned the memorandum we provided for the round-table discussion in the House of Representatives. In its conclusion, we wrote about the mixed picture that had emerged in the eight months since the launch of the online market. Let me restate that here. On the one hand, some things are going well. Great strides have been made in shifting players away from illegal to legal operators. It seems that players have found their way to these legal operators, with many illegal operators withdrawing from the Dutch market on account of the Ksa’s new enforcement and fining policy. The Central Exclusion Register now contains more than 16.700 entries, which means players who want to exclude themselves can find their way to this system. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that plenty of work remains to be done when it comes to the conduct of some operators. I would like to appeal here for a reinforced sense of joint responsibility. After all: if there is one industry in which the innocent have to suffer along with the guilty, it is the gambling industry. Some operators have been operating at the margins of what is socially acceptable, and occasionally outside them. That is serious, because the main purpose of legalisation was to provide a safe environment for people who want to gamble. That is the foundation of the Remote Gambling Act. The Ksa will intensify its monitoring of the fulfillment of the duty of care. We will not hesitate to intervene if there are evident signals that operators are not complying with the duty of care. This concerns both landbased and online operators. The Ksa will make itself heard in the near future.
Thank you for your kind attention, and enjoy the rest of your day.