Speech René Jansen, 8 juni 2023

Good morning everybody,

First of all my thanks to the organisers of today’s Conference for inviting me to present the key note to you again. There is enough to talk about for all of us today. The questions about the future of the online gambling market have been interpreted nicely in the name of the program part ‘surviving the Dutch regulated market’. And because I know that there is uncertainty about the upcoming regulations on untargeted advertising, this will be the first topic to be addressed.

I'd also like to take a look at the market and at where we stand today. Late April, we published the fourth Monitoring Report. It shows that the legal market for online gambling has grown substantially. That is probably no surprise to any person in this room. And a growing market means – all the more! - an increasing responsibility.

That is why today I will once again address the duty of care of all license holders as well as our investigation to the implementation of this duty of care in practice. I would also like to give an update on our experiences with the monitoring databases, the data vaults, of the operators. An entirely different subject I will touch on briefly is our upcoming information campaign on the exclusion register, Cruks.

The ban on untargeted advertising

Like I said, I will speak first about the new rules on advertising. The growth of the online gambling market has nowhere been more visible than in the advertising world. From the opening of the market, consumers were flooded with public advertising. Operators’ self-control increased in the subsequent months. That was counteracted however, by the growing number of new license holders that, understandably, wanted to present themselves to Dutch consumers.

After those early stages, advertising for online gambling was restricted among other things by the ban on the use of role models. We're in the next phase now, with the upcoming ban on untargeted advertising for online gambling.

The ban will be effective as of July first. Operators offering online as well as land-based gambling may continue untargeted advertising for their land-based offer. However, their advertising for these must explicitly be sufficiently different from their advertising for online gambling.

In the lead-up to this advertising ban, the Kansspelautoriteit (Ksa) is aware of questions about this in the industry. What will enforcement be like? How can operators do it right the first time, while not having experience with the restrictions yet? In other words, I hear a call from the sector for ‘guidance’ by the Ksa.

At the informative webinar of Gaming in Holland in May as well as at earlier occasions, these signals were loud and clear. Operators also wonder to which extent the advertising ban will have a negative impact on channelisation, which is something that goes really well now. Then there are concerns about the administrative burden the ban will present to operators.

In short, the sector wants something to hold on to from the Ksa; this may also be an expression of the wish for a predictable regulator. I understand that. Nobody wants to run the risk of a surprise fine.

And yet… I feel the need to manage expectations a little in that respect. We are only able to provide the requested ‘guidance' to a limited extent. Various parts of the new ban are a new and uncharted area for us as well. Like the industry, we will have to find our way in this.

I will immediately add that you may expect the Ksa not to tackle new monitoring or enforcement situations straight-legged. In the beginning, we will especially monitor how the new rules work out in actual practice. New or additional insights will be shared with you.

Besides, there is a more fundamental side to my reservations when speaking about guidance. Licensed operators are at all times the ones responsible for compliance with the regulations, including new rules. ‘Leaning back’ and waiting for further explanations from the regulator can and should never be the intention!

My most important guidance – and appeal – for today is an old traffic safety advice: “When in doubt, no passing!”

Let me give you an example. When an operator wonders if his advertising for land-based gambling is sufficiently distinguishing from the advertising for online gambling, he should go one step further and make the advertising different even more.

Here is another example. If you are not sure whether 95% of the viewers of your online advertising are adults over 24 years of age, you could also opt not to show the advertising at all.

My most important appeal at this point in time: find a way, but don't seek the boundaries. Public confidence in the gambling industry is low and fragile. Operators therefore have to show that they are committed to a fair and safe market with player protection as the important standard.

In conclusion to this part of my contribution, we realise that the new rules involve quite some time and effort. That’s one of the reasons to announce that we will engage in talks with operators and ‘affiliates’. Among other things, about the challenges of the advertising ban and how they practically work out for operators.

Data vault

That takes me to another topic about which operators have a lot of questions and which I addressed in February as well: the data vault systems, also known as CDBs. The Dutch Betting and Gambling Act obliges operators to have this data vault in proper order. The data from these vaults show us how operators implement their duty of care and obligations under Anti Money Laundering regulations.

Already in February I informed you that the data vaults of a number of operators were still not adequately in order. We were still accommodating when the market for online gambling opened, but that moment is now definitely over. We understand that providing ‘near real-time’ data in the right format entails technical challenges, but as far as we are concerned there has been time enough to tackle those challenges. That means that if required, we are prepared to proceed to the suspension or complete revocation of licenses, if need be. That is a rigorous and last resort step, which we are prepared to make if necessary.

Being able to comply with the rules of the monitoring database CBD is also a requirement for new operators in the market. There are currently still nine outstanding license applications. The number was higher at first and has decreased over the last few months. Several potential license holders withdrew their applications, because they indicated not to be able to comply with the CBD requirements at short notice. We do not compromise there either: the data vault is an essential part of the requirements a licensed operator must fulfil. Moreover, it is crucial for a safe market, where players are protected as much as possible.

Duty of care

Another part of that optimal protection of the player is the duty of care. Earlier the Ksa indicated that operators interpret their duty of care obligations in many different ways. In order to make an inventory of that, we started an extensive investigation. The results will be presented in the summer.

In the first phases of that investigation, we looked at the addiction prevention policy of the first ten licensed online operators and its implementation in their operations. Player files of gamblers who had had at least one operator intervention were retrieved as well. In the last phase of the investigation which we are now concluding, we had talks with the operators, also regarding the player files provided.

We now see that even after further investigation it is hard to get a thorough idea of the interpretation of the duty of care obligations by the operators. That is not entirely unexpected. For, the open standards in the legislation and regulations allow license holders a lot of room in the execution.

At the same time, we see here that there are operators seeking the boundaries more than others. Although the law leaves room for interpretation, I call on all operators to use their common sense.

When a player is being investigated by an operator, either for problematic gambling behaviour or for potential money laundering, is it then wise and fitting to let the player continue to play unrestrictedly until the outcome of the investigation? I myself would certainly say not and I expect a great deal of the operators would say the same. Yet not every operator actually deals with this in the same way.

As I indicated earlier: the confidence in the industry is fragile. Make sure as an operator that you contribute to regaining that confidence.

The results of the investigation may very well lead to a tightening of the rules, such as our own Ksa policy rules. We may also decide to advise the Minister to tighten regulations.

Law enforcement on illegal offer

Being allowed to offer gambling on a legal market entails a lot of responsibilities and work therefore. How do you survive as an operator on the Dutch market? Besides a viable market position, I realise there should be something else as well: a tough approach towards illegal operators. We will continue to expand our Enforcement department over the next year so that we can tackle illegal operators with even more vigour.

Exclusion Register

Besides supervision and enforcement, the Ksa is also responsible for consumer protection. We do that among other things by managing the Exclusion Register, Cruks. Currently, over 41,000 players on Dutch territory have taken a gambling break through Cruks.

In anticipation of the evaluation of next year's Remote Gambling Act, we advised the Minister for Legal Protection to already make involuntary registration in Cruks more accessible on the short term. We know that operators start the process, but also that this process is not always completed successfully due to the complex regulations. This has to change and become simpler.

To increase the brand recognition of Cruks, a targeted awareness campaign will be started after the summer, so that whoever needs a gambling break, knows where to turn to.

A moving market

As Ksa, we see that the gambling world is in motion. Future measures like the advertising ban are challenging to operators. Yet we are all aware that regulation is necessary in the gambling sector. The risks of gambling should be kept to an absolute minimum.  In addition, a high degree of freedom for gambling operators is a socially and politically unthinkable attitude.

At the same time, I'd like to say that business perspectives don't look bad at all for operators at this point in time. The market is growing. In the Monitoring Report already mentioned, we expect a trend-based growth of about 13 to 15 percent in the next few years.

Channelisation is also going well. 92 percent of the players gamble only with legal operators. For new players, this is even 98%. We will keep monitoring if this continues on this level also after the advertising ban. It is important for Dutch players to stay away from the illegal market.

License holders themselves play an important role in the development of the online market in the Netherlands. It requires responsible behaviour of individual operators as well as a joint responsibility of the industry as a whole.

Forget about the fear that a player might switch to a competitor when thinking about how to interpret and execute your duty of care. Accept the challenge together: when one operator stays on the safe side of the advertising policy, don't cross the borders yourself to profit from someone else's prudent policy.

Measures are taken to counteract or contain adverse effects of the legal market. Those who then seek the limits of these measures only increase the likelihood that the market will be further restricted by legislation. And that may have a counterproductive effect.

And yes, operators can survive on the Dutch market just fine. But for me it's not ‘survival of the fittest’, but every group being as strong as its weakest link.

And please remember: society is much more interested in and concerned about the health of the players than the health of the operators!

Thank you for your attention.