René Jansen: Ksa can only offer limited guidance on impending ad ban

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René Jansen, Chair of Kansspelautoriteit, has told Dutch operators that the gambling authority can only offer limited guidance ahead of the upcoming untargeted advertising ban as the area is “new and uncharted” territory for them as well.

Jansen recently talked to the Dutch market at the Gaming in Holland conference ahead of the introduction of the country’s online gambling untargeted advertising ban on July 1.

Here, the Ksa Chair noted that he was only able to provide limited guidance regarding what will happen once the new regulations are enforced next month.

However, he also understood that operators want more advice from the regulator to avoid any surprise fines once the untargeted advertising ban comes into play.

“In short, the sector wants something to hold on to from the Ksa; this may also be an expression of the wish for a predictable regulator. I understand that. Nobody wants to run the risk of a surprise fine,” he said.

“And yet… I feel the need to manage expectations a little in that respect. We are only able to provide the requested ‘guidance’ to a limited extent. Various parts of the new ban are a new and uncharted area for us as well. Like the industry, we will have to find our way in this.”

The Ksa Chair stated that the regulator will monitor how the new rules are working in actual practice and will share new and additional insights with operators when they are found.

“My most important appeal at this point in time: find a way, but don’t seek the boundaries”

Yet, he urged operators not to sit and wait for more guidance to come, but rather be proactive, encouraging them to “find a way, but don’t seek the boundaries”.

“My most important guidance – and appeal – for today is an old traffic safety advice: ‘When in doubt, no passing’,” Jansen said.

“Let me give you an example. When an operator wonders if his advertising for land-based gambling is sufficiently distinguishing from the advertising for online gambling, he should go one step further and make the advertising different even more.

“Here is another example. If you are not sure whether 95 per cent of the viewers of your online advertising are adults over 24 years of age, you could also opt not to show the advertising at all.

“My most important appeal at this point in time: find a way, but don’t seek the boundaries. Public confidence in the gambling industry is low and fragile. Operators, therefore, have to show that they are committed to a fair and safe market with player protection as the important standard.

“In conclusion to this part of my contribution, we realise that the new rules involve quite some time and effort. That’s one of the reasons to announce that we will engage in talks with operators and affiliates. Among other things, about the challenges of the advertising ban and how they practically work out for operators.”

Jansen also spoke about the Control Database and how licensees were having problems with linking to the CDB, which is a requirement for the market.

He said that there are still nine outstanding licence applications and that the KSA will be providing no more time for licensees to link with the CDB as they have received enough already.

“…the confidence in the industry is fragile”

The regulator is prepared to “proceed to the suspension or complete revocation of licences” if they don’t comply, but this is viewed as “a rigorous and last resort step”, that the regulator is prepared to take if necessary.

Jansen added: “We do not compromise there either: the data vault is an essential part of the requirements a licensed operator must fulfil. Moreover, it is crucial for a safe market, where players are protected as much as possible.”

Jansen spoke about the Ksa’s investigation into the duty of care for players as well, noting that the results of the regulator’s investigation will be presented later this summer.

However, he did state that “it is hard to get a thorough idea of the interpretation of the duty of care obligations by the operators”, so he is calling for operators “to use their common sense”. He also claimed the investigation’s results may lead to the tightening of regulations.

He continued: “When a player is being investigated by an operator, either for problematic gambling behaviour or for potential money laundering, is it then wise and fitting to let the player continue to play unrestrictedly until the outcome of the investigation? I myself would certainly say not and I expect a great deal of the operators would say the same. Yet not every operator actually deals with this in the same way.

“As I indicated earlier: the confidence in the industry is fragile. Make sure as an operator that you contribute to regaining that confidence.”

The KSA Chair highlighted the recent changes made to the gambling authority’s self-exclusion service Cruks, revealing that there will also be an awareness campaign for the service this summer.

“But for me it’s not ‘survival of the fittest’, but every group being as strong as its weakest link”

He also noted that the KSA is doing more to tackle the illegal market, before calling for the industry to work together to create a safe environment for players.

“Forget about the fear that a player might switch to a competitor when thinking about how to interpret and execute your duty of care. Accept the challenge together: when one operator stays on the safe side of the advertising policy, don’t cross the borders yourself to profit from someone else’s prudent policy,” Jansen concluded

“Measures are taken to counteract or contain adverse effects of the legal market. Those who then seek the limits of these measures only increase the likelihood that the market will be further restricted by legislation. And that may have a counterproductive effect.

“And yes, operators can survive on the Dutch market just fine. But for me it’s not ‘survival of the fittest’, but every group being as strong as its weakest link.

“And please remember: society is much more interested in and concerned about the health of the players than the health of the operators.”