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Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind has called for a ban on untargeted advertising for online gambling in a blow for the country’s regulated operators. 

Weerwind set out plans in a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives to expedite the process of amending the Remote Gambling Act and to close in on a legal ban within a year.

Weerwind noted in his letter the importance of creating high levels of channelisation in the country by showcasing the regulated market, but said the protection of vulnerable groups must also be guaranteed within a legal environment. 

He added that those working with addiction and those with a history of problem gambling found the large amount of untargeted gambling advertising in the market to be challenging, although he acknowledged there was no significant data available on the topic.

He also noted that larger numbers of young people appear to be gambling since the market’s liberalisation in October 2021, and said he wants to ensure that gambling ads are targeted at those who already have an interest in the industry.

The recommended clampdown will seek to ban the use of public figures and role models such as football players in gambling advertising from June as they are thought to have an additional appeal to younger customers.

This is a tried and tested marketing practice in the Netherlands. Former international footballers Wesley Sneijder and Andy van der Meijde represent TOTO and BetCity respectively.

The draft text for a legal ban is currently being worked out. Weerwind hopes to submit it for consultation before the summer and for it to be adopted into law within a year. Usually, the process of amending legislation in the Netherlands would take around two years, but the politician is hoping to fast-track the process on this occasion. 

In the interim, operators in the market have agreed with the minister, alongside industry associations NOGA and VNLOK, to stop advertising on the radio, in public places and in print media, while TV ads will now only be broadcast between 10pm and 6am.

Weerwind said the sector has also committed itself to a series of further measures, with the main aim of protecting vulnerable groups.

The measures will be implemented on top of existing regulatory requirements enforced by Kansspelautoriteit and will include limiting communications about bonus offers and encouraging customers to set limits on their play.

The country’s gambling trade associations are working on a complete list of measures to implement from 1 April.

In addition to the measures being introduced on advertising, Weerwind has called for an investigation to be carried out into the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the gambling activities of young people in the Netherlands.

Sweden’s gambling regulator published a similar study this week into the impact of Covid-19 restrictions for online casino gameplay but was unable to establish any concrete conclusions.

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