Dutch government opens consultation on advertising reforms

The Dutch Government has launched a consultation seeking feedback on the proposed regulatory amendments that threaten to severely restrict the coverage of gambling advertising. 

This July, the Ministry of Legal Protections warned licensed operators of its intentions to sanction new laws to curtail ‘untargeted advertising’, with orders being imposed from 1 January 2023.

Dutch Minister for Legal Protections, Franc Weerwind, outlined a three-phase approach to reducing gambling advertising exposure, principally recommending the Kamer to adopt a ban on ‘untargeted adverts’ on TV, radio and outdoor advertising from January 2023.

First stage restrictions will be followed by a ban on TV and media sponsorships by gambling operators in 2024 – and the subsequent end of all gambling-related sports sponsorships (shirt/team/venue) by 2025.

Market incumbents have been perplexed by the Ministry’s proposed amendments. As recent as last month, Weerwind disclosed under Kamer questioning that he did not favour blanket advertising restrictions mirroring those imposed by neighbouring Belgium.

Explaining his change of heart, Weerwind argued that Dutch licensed incumbents had been provided with a fair mandate, as changes would be implemented by a phased approach allowing operators and media partners to adjust to new demands.

Weerwind stated that changes were required to protect vulnerable audiences and that restrictions would not “unbalance the regulated market channelling ambitions”.

Criticism of the planned restrictions has been led by Dutch gambling trade groups VNLOK and NOGA who, in March, had secured a  commitment from all KOA operators to follow a new Code-of-Conduct on Dutch advertising to implement new measures to reduce advertising exposure and improve targeting.  

The trade bodies have outlined that Dutch operators have been denied the right to demonstrate their self-regulatory measures by the Ministry that has drastically changed the terms of the KOA regime that legalised online gambling.

The Ministry of Legal Protections has been ordered to define the meaning of ‘untargeted adverts’ and to further clarify the technical resources needed to impose a comprehensive gambling ban across advertising mediums.

Of significance, the Ministry has not disclosed whether restrictions will be applied to Dutch state-owned lottery operators, a measure that will likely be challenged by the KOA regime’s foreign operators. 

The Dutch government has launched a first-stage consultation to examine the Ministry’s proposed changes which will close on 4 September. It seeks feedback from ‘targeted groups affected by the scheme’ including ‘consumers, media agencies, sports clubs and gambling operators’.

 

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