René Jansen, Ksa: much to be done to hit lofty Dutch market expectations

René Jansen, Chair of the Kansspelautoriteit, has reflected on a maiden full calendar year for the Dutch online gambling ecosystem “with mixed feelings”.

Across a year that has witnessed numerous licence applications, record number of financial penalties and advertising warnings, Jansen has acknowledged that while “much is going well” there are several points of improvement that must be made.

“Much still needs to be done – primarily among the licensees – to do full justice to our mission of ‘Playing Safe’,” he said in his first full 12-month annual report.

On the licensing front, 24 permits have been issued, with 21 in operation and supplying offerings to customers. 13 applications are currently being assessed.

This, said Jansen, is due to the fact that it requires “a lot of capacity from both Ksa and the applicants,” with it added that “several applications” have been withdrawn or rejected following background checks.

“I believe that setting these high standards is an important condition for a permanently reliable and safe online gambling offer”

“Looking back, we have seen that the bar is set high, so that only one in three applications have so far resulted in a permit,” Jansen noted. 

“I believe that setting these high standards is an important condition for a permanently reliable and safe online gambling offer.”

During 2022, driven by penalties being issued to seven operators in December, the Ksa dished out a record €29.77m in fines, with 40 providers also changing behaviour following threats of a potential sanctions.

This has been maintained in 2023, with action thus far taken against a number of parties after a plethora of failings were said to have been identified by the Ksa.

Already this year, the Ksa has been on something of a regulatory rampage after issuing a slew of sanctions, which includes handing out penalties of €900,000 to Shark77, €400,000 to Joi Gaming, €350,000 to Bingoal and €900,000 each to Equinox Dynamic from Curaçao and Slovakia’s Domiseda and Partners.

Furthermore, a total of €26m in penalties was handed down to N1 Interactive (€12.64m), Videoslots (€9.87m), Betpoint Group (€1.78m), Probe Investments (€1.12m) and Fairload (€900,000), as part of a total package of €26m.

During March, the Ksa also voiced an intention to collect a €4.41m penalty payment from Gammix after an appeal to the sanction was rejected, with Hillside New Media Malta, bet365’s Malta-based operating company, fined €400,000.

“…combating illegal offers remains as important as ever”

“After the opening up of the legal online market, combating illegal offers remains as important as ever,” he explained.

“We periodically monitor which 100 gambling websites are most frequently visited from the Netherlands and act if we determine that illegal gambling is being offered. In practice, we see that most of the websites go black when we announce that we are going to perform. 

“The threat may often be invisible, but it turns out to be very effective. In addition, we are committed to tackling promoters such as affiliate websites and payment service providers to make it as difficult as possible for illegal players. And in serious cases fines will of course follow.”

However, despite a ramp-up of such action, social confidence in the sector is said to have been damaged by a “deluge of advertising” during the initial months of the regulated sector opening its digital doors.

In its annual report, the Ksa noted the discovery of several instances where providers were planning to advertise on child friendly websites and family TV programs, with the regulator intervening “several times in prohibited advertising campaigns”.

“We are now on the eve of a ban on untargeted advertising for short-odd gambling,” noted Jansen, before changing tack to focus on improvements that must be made in providers’ duty of care.

“We are receiving – sometimes distressing – signals that the duty of care has not yet been adequately organised or addressed”

He explained: “Providers must optimally protect their players against gambling addiction and major financial damage as a result of loss of control during gambling. Timely intervention by providers is one of the most important pillars of a safe gambling market.

“We are receiving – sometimes distressing – signals that the duty of care has not yet been adequately organised or addressed at every provider. This also requires a great deal of effort from our supervisors.”

With findings of a Ksa-led investigation to be completed by this summer, which will shape the future approach to compliance supervision, Minister Franc Weerwind is also said to be “preparing legal playing limits”. 

Jansen said: “When those playing limits are reached, the door has to be locked, as it were. Where necessary, we will enforce compliance by providers with those limits.”

In drawing his address to a close, Jansen noted significant progress on a three year Koa Act objective of ensuring that eight out of ten customers play via a licensed entity.

It is estimated by the Ksa that 85 percent of online players now gamble with legal providers, with more than 36,000 individuals also signed up the Cruks self exclusion register.