Speech René Jansen, 22 september 2022

Speech by René Jansen, Thursday 22 September 2022, 09:10 during EL/WLA CSR-Responsible Gaming Seminar in Amsterdam.

Good morning everyone,
I hope you have had a warm welcome to Amsterdam, our beautiful capital. You have probably already seen something of the city. The beauty of the city will surely have made an impression on you, and you will also have noticed how crowded the city is. There was a time when we thought that, after the coronavirus, the world would look different in this respect, but nothing could be further from the truth. There is a constant question in Amsterdam: how can we channel the flow of tourists in a good manner? Anyway, you’re not here to listen to me talk about Amsterdam.

In this welcome speech, I would like to address two themes:

  • the Dutch market of games of chance in general terms: what does this look like, and will it stay that way?
  • and the opening of the online gambling market, which took place on 1 October last year.

I realise that you are mainly interested in our experiences with legal online gambling, but for me, it is logical to say something as well about the Dutch market as a whole during a meeting of Lotteries from all over the world. European Lotteries was set up at a time when the world of games of chance was still wonderfully clear and straightforward. Governments created monopolies to channel gambling in good directions. This was the case in the Netherlands, and it will have been no different in your home countries.

The Netherlands currently has six of these legal monopolies:

  • a State Lottery;
  • a monopoly for offering sports betting in shops;
  • for lotto games;
  • for scratch cards;
  • for land-based casino games;
  • and finally a monopoly for land-based offering of betting on horse races.

In addition, there are open systems, as they are called, for online gambling and for charity lotteries; everyone who meets the requirements receives a license.

Is this how things will remain? I do not have the answer to that, but it is always sensible to check from time to time whether the way things are organised now is still in line with the ‘zeitgeist’. This is also what our lawyers hear in the courts when they defend a legal monopoly set out in Dutch policy on gambling: the judge wants the system to undergo a dynamic examination. In other words: whatever is decided on, it is not set in stone.

At the start of 2021, the Kansspelautoriteit, the Ksa, published the Market vision on gambling: Market regulation and market surveillance from the perspective of public interests. In this document, the Ksa sets out its vision for a possible future organisation and regulation of the various gambling sectors. The Minister for Legal Protection, who is responsible for the gambling policy, requested such a vision as part of the possible modernisation of the gambling regulation. One important step towards the desired modernisation has of course already been taken: the legalisation of online gambling, which I will return to in a moment. In the Market Vision – which has also been published in English on our website – we conclude that, in the future, more space might be allocated to new gambling operators.
With regard to all six of the Dutch legal monopolies, we could talk long and hard about whether that specific monopoly is still the best choice for regulatory purposes, considering either consumers’ interests or the goals of gambling policy. I won’t do that here – it would require too much of your time. But if, for instance, we look at the market for lotteries: would the Netherlands, in the year 2022, still present the idea of a State Lottery if it wished – without historical baggage – to create a system for lotteries?

It is a current topic. The Dutch Minister of Finance, Sigrid Kaag, said earlier this month during a meeting in our Parliament that an evaluation will take place on state-ownership of Holland Casino, the landbased casino games monopoly, and the state-owned Nederlandse Loterij, our host today. More information about this will be announced next year. The role of legal monopolies will undoubtedly be discussed in that context.

Now, let us consider the online gambling market in the Netherlands. This sector certainly offers more space for gambling operators now than it did before. This is hardly a surprise, since, until 1 October 2021, it was illegal to offer online gambling in our country. Today, we have 22 online license holders. If you ask me how things stand after almost a year, I would say it is a mixed picture. The good news is that, to an important extent, we have managed to eliminate illegal operators.
Dutch citizens who want to gamble online can easily find and use the legal operators. The political goal that, within a few years, at least 8 out of 10 online players should be gambling with a legal operator is certainly realistic. This is definitely due in part to our new enforcement policy and the considerably higher fines that we announced in the run-up to 1 October 2021. So that is generally the good news, without trying to be exhaustive.

But on two issues, the news is less good: advertising and the duty of care. First advertising. The public became quite annoyed about the bombardment of advertising, especially on TV, radio and out-of-home. As a result, Parliament and the Minister quickly felt forced to intervene. Since 30 June, using role models, for example former football professionals, in advertising for online gambling has been forbidden. A change to secondary legislation has also been announced that will completely ban so called untargeted advertising – so on TV, on the radio, out-of-home and via the Internet. This might enter into force on 1 January 2023. I find it a pity that the boundaries of what is socially acceptable have been transgressed. In order to both achieve and maintain the desired channelling from illegal to legal operators, some degree of advertising is certainly helpful. We will see how this will further develop.

The second issue concerns the duty of care, the legal responsibility of operators to prevent players from becoming addicted to gambling and/or going beyond their own boundaries. This too has proved disappointing: some online operators find this rather difficult. This follows from indications we receive from gamblers, and what we see in the media. This theme was discussed at length in a round-table conference in Parliament and was seen as a point of great concern. Of course, it was inevitable that the legalisation of online gambling would generate a certain amount of controversy.

People have always been gambling online since we have Internet access, illegally though. This involved at least several hundred thousand Dutch citizens. With the legalisation various aspects have become more visible to the public eye. This goes hand in hand with public debate, and this is actually something only to be welcomed. But the controversy and outcry about the duty of care needs to end. Hence, the Ksa has also decided to increase its monitoring and supervision in this area. If there is a reason to this, it will lead to quick actions of the Ksa. In addition, we have started an in-depth study of how the license holders realise their duty of care obligations in practice. Here, we literally want to see what operators do to prevent their customers from becoming endangered and preventing financial harm. We will be completing this supervisory research in early 2023.

In this regard, the Ksa also commissioned an external study of the duty of care regulation in 21 European countries. This research was published on our website in the beginning of August, including a summary in English. We concluded that legislation in the Netherlands measures up well to that in many other European countries. We also saw that some countries make some further efforts to protect gamblers, for instance by applying maximum payment or loss limits per provider, or in an overarching manner to include all operators. In Spain, for instance, they apply maximum payment limits per operator per day, week and month. This certainly has a protective effect, because switching to another operator after reaching a limit does function as a disincentive. It may prevent excessive losses.
Personally, I am charmed by the Swedish approach: a legal obligation to investigate. This means that operators are obliged to contact a player when he or she sets a loss limit of higher than around 930 euros a month. An investigation must then show whether the gambler can afford this and whether possible gambling problems are developing or already exist. The international research also showed that applying aggregated limits, meaning an overarching limit that includes all operators, may seem more logical but is very hard to implement in practice. Belgium studied this possibility but decided not to implement it due to operational problems. Instead, it has announced that, from mid-October onwards, it will apply a weekly payment limit of 200 euros per account. Germany wishes to apply an aggregated limit as well, but this is not yet operational.

As you see, there are various possibilities for tightening the duty of care obligations. I am increasingly questioning myself whether the Netherlands also shouldn’t move towards a stricter implementation of the duty of care by using limits established in legislation. The open norms that are currently in place – with the idea that some people can afford more than others or have more time to play than others – seem not to work adequate enough in practice. The Minister has already shown that he will not hesitate to act if operators do not take their responsibility seriously enough.

This concludes my speech. Thank you for your attention, and I wish you an enjoyable and productive seminar.