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Dutch minister: Advertising restrictions delayed; no cross-operator deposit limits

Minister for Legal Protection, Franc Weerwind told the Permanent Committee for Justice and Security of the Dutch Lower House that the proposed ban on untargeted gambling advertising, originally scheduled to be introduced on January 1, 2023, would be delayed until February or March.

On October 6, the Permanent Committee for Justice and Security convened to discuss the implementation of the proposed ban on all untargeted (broadcast, print, outdoor) gambling advertising, as well as the introduction of stricter deposit limits, with the responsible minister, Franc Weerwind.

A full recording of the debate is available here.

Political developments and context

During the debate, it became quickly clear that the efforts of political groups SP and CU have succeeded in convincing a significant majority of the Lower House to support significant additional restrictions on licensed online operators. Only the VVD group, the Lower House's largest individual faction, currently appears to be willing to offer some support to the gambling sector.

While there is significant desire among MPs to impose additional restrictions on the gambling industry, this is not matched by actual knowledge of market conditions or even the current regulatory and legislative framework. At one point, a participant in the debate called on the Minister to introduce additional restrictions that would directly (and obviously) violate existing primary legislation.

Additionally, there was very little respect among the more forceful opponents of regulated gambling for administrative provisions and procedures, which resulted in calls for drastic changes in secondary legislation within impossibly short timeframes.

Finally, the once familiar refrain – largely died down in recent years – that the Netherlands Gambling Authority “simply isn't doing enough” also made an unfortunate comeback.

On a more positive note, Minister Weerwind did not shy away from defending the Dutch regulator and insisting that proper administrative procedures be followed. Weerwind even praised the efforts by industry trade associations NOGA and VNLOK to voluntarily limit advertising volumes and strengthen player protection measures.

Advertising restrictions delayed

During the debate, Minister Weerwind said that the previously announced ban on all untargeted gambling advertising, including broadcast, print, outdoor, and most online advertising, which had been scheduled for January 1, 2023, would be delayed by several months.

At present, the Ministry is still processing the responses to the public consultation on the proposed rule change. Following the conclusion of this process, the Council of State must offer its advice on the new rules.

It should be noted that it is not inconceivable that the Council of State will advise negatively on the new rules, as there are valid doubts as to proportionality and consistency (land-based gambling advertising is excluded from the ban) of the amended advertising regulations.

The Council of State may also find that the proposed rule change requires new primary legislation rather than a simpler and quicker change in secondary legislation. Earlier, Franc Weerwind, Minister for Legal Protection, wrote to the Dutch Lower House that new primary legislation would be introduced.

Negative advice by the Council of State is likely to significantly derail the speedy introduction of additional gambling advertising restrictions.

The new advertising restrictions also include a ban on sports sponsorships from January 1, 2025, onward. A majority of the Permanent Committee for Justice and Security would like to see this date advanced by at least six months. However, as this would require involvement of the Ministry of Welfare, Health, and Sport (as well as the corresponding Lower House committee), it is currently unclear whether a majority of MPs will attempt to push for such a change.

No cross-operator deposit limits

Minister Weerwind also indicated that, due to technical, legal, and privacy considerations, the government would not seek to introduce cross-operator deposit limits. Instead, each licensed online operator would be required to introduce an as-of-yet unspecified maximum deposit limit for each individual player.

However, with (currently) 22 online licensees, the practical value of this approach may be limited.

Next steps

Minister Weerwind promised to follow up his responses to the Permanent Committee's questioning with a more extensive letter that would be sent in November.

MP Mirjam Bikker (CU) indicated that, in the meantime, she would request a (brief) plenary debate for the purpose of submitting additional Parliamentary motions. This debate has not yet been scheduled.

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