Five Dutch incumbent gambling operators (Holland Casino, Janshen-Hahnraths Group, JVH gaming, Nederlandse Loterij, and ZEbetting) have founded a new online trade association, Vergunde Nederlandse Online Kansspelaanbieders (“Licensed Dutch Online Gaming Operators” – VNLOK). The new trade association will welcome additional members with a Dutch remote gaming license.
VNLOK's first accomplishment is the launch of a new voluntary advertising code, the Reclamecode Kansspelen (“Advertising Code Games of Chance” – ROK), which will enter into force later this month. One of the advertising code's aims is to place voluntary restrictions on the amount of online gambling advertising, in order to avoid a public and political backlash, and eventual future additional restrictions.
However, the other Dutch trade association for online gambling operators, NOGA, which represents several major international online operators, including Kindred and Bet365, has been excluded from the negotiations to determine the new advertising code.
While the new advertising code explicitly limits the amount of advertising for online gambling services, land-based gambling services are excluded from these restrictions, which would give incumbents with land-based operations an unfair advantage to build brand recognition, says Peter-Paul de Goeij, Managing Director NOGA.
“No room for illegal operators”
One of the stated aims of the VNLOK is to promote a “safe online gambling market in which there is no room for illegal operators.” For at least part of the VNLOK's membership, this means that all unlicensed offerings must become completely unavailable to Dutch consumers as soon as fully licensed alternatives are available when the regulated market opens.
This position is aimed directly at those operators who are subject to the cooling-off period, a period of up to 33 months during which these operators must refrain from “actively targeting” the Dutch market in order to remain eligible for a Dutch remote license.
Several members of competing trade association NOGA are currently subject to this cooling-off period. Ending even their passive availability to Dutch players would obviously be a big blow to the long-term prospects of these operators.
De Goeij: “The cooling-off period is stated government policy that reflects the explicit will of the legislature (Motie Postema), and has already been published in the Government Gazette. The cooling-off period, even in its current shape, is reaching the limits of what can be legally sustained, the Minister himself admitted in Parliament. It would therefore be questionable, to say the least, to add further restrictions and burdens to this policy - especially at this late stage. Moreover, to impose a complete blackout on precisely those operators who are willing to fully submit to Dutch regulatory oversight as soon as they are eligible for receiving a license will mainly benefit operators who have no intention whatsoever to ever conform to regulatory oversight and consumer protection measures. From a channelization and player protection perspective, this would be wholly counterproductive.”
VNLOK did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Thus, the creation of a new trade association has further exposed the fault lines that divided land-based incumbents from their international, online competitors. To some extent, the new trade association highlights a more definitive hardening of attitudes between land-based incumbents and those operators who seek to formalize their existing online presence through the acquisition of a remote license.
To what extent this will have an impact on the regulated Dutch online market will become clearer at the upcoming Gaming in Holland Conference on September 28 in Amsterdam, when VNLOK chair Helma Lodders will further clarify the position and goals of the VNLOK and its membership.
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