Netherlands to ban sports sponsorships and ‘untargeted advertising’ by 2025

Franc Weerwind, the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection, has announced major reforms to betting advertising regulation in the Netherlands, according to local media. 

Economy and business newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad (FD) reported that sports sponsorship for online games of chance along with ‘untargeted advertising’ of these will be prohibited as by the end of 2025. 

Under the Minister’s plans, the ban on non targeted advertising will come into effect on 1 January 2023, with further restrictions rolled out over the next two years.

According to FD, Weerwind commented on Friday: “Advertising is a means to lead people to the legal offer, but the importance of addiction prevention outweighs. With this I want to protect especially vulnerable groups such as young people.”

The initial ban will mean that operators which offer such games will not be allowed to advertise on television, radio or in public indoor or outdoor spaces, with enhanced requirements for protection of vulnerable groups imposed for online marketing.

Online gambling sponsorships of sports programmes and events will be banned from 2024, followed by removal of stadium and shirt sponsorships the following year. 

The wider time frame for this has been adopted in order to allow the sports sector to find alternative sponsors, with newly regulated Dutch online betting firms now providing substantial sums to some clubs. 

Current sponsorship arrangements in place in the country have seen state-owned operator Holland Casino partner with the Eredivisie and Keuken Kampioen Divisie, the first and second divisions of Dutch football. 

Meanwhile, Kindred Group’s Unibet partnered with top-flight side Ajax earlier this year – both Holland Casino and Unibet’s collaborations in Dutch football have included a focus on responsible gambling, but will have to be removed by 2025 under Weerwind’s proposals. 

The development follows on from a ban on the use of ‘role models’ – which included sports figures, as well as social media influencers, who may be familiar to younger consumers  – in gambling industry marketing campaigns. 

Some Dutch MPs had been calling for an enhancement of such measures, citing a perceived increase in the Dutch betting advertising in the aftermath of the regulation of the online gaming space in October 2021 under the KOA Act.

There are currently 11 licensed operators active in the Dutch market – a figure which Niels Onkenhout, Chief Executive of Nederlandse Loterij, expects to grow to 20 by the close of 2022 – and industry spend on advertising reached €23m at the end of last year.

It has been observed by René Jansen, Chair of the Dutch gambling regulator the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), that advertising fulfils one of the objectives of the KOA Act, that is directing customers to licenced, regulated firms and away from black market operators which lack player protection measures. 

Although Weerwind’s statement, as published in FD, appears to agree with this sentiment, it seems that Dutch market incumbents can expect a tightening of marketing activities – particularly relating to sports – in the coming years.

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