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Outgoing KSA chair Jansen calls for further RG action at land-based venues

| By Kyle Goldsmith
René Jansen, outgoing chairman of the Netherlands gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), has called on the land-based industry to do more to prevent irresponsible play.
KSA Jansen

In October, it was announced Jansen was to stand down from his role with the KSA. He will depart when his current term ends on 1 October 2024. Jansen will have spent six years leading the KSA by the time he leaves. He has overseen huge changes in the Netherlands gambling industry, including the launch of regulated online gambling in 2021.

With the increase in popularity of gambling in the Netherlands, the risk of problem players has also risen. In response, the Netherlands has introduced measures such as a ban on untargeted advertising. A vote to completely ban online gambling advertising, as well as “high-risk” betting like online slots, was passed this month. However, it’s so far unclear whether those measures will be put into law.

For his speech at the Casino Operations Summit in Amsterdam, Jansen focused on land-based venues and how they could be doing more to promote responsible gambling (RG). Jansen did also note though that the KSA’s investigations are paying dividends, with a number of large-scale activities shut down in recent times.

“Previously, we were mainly involved in actions by partners such as municipalities or the police,” Jansen said. “Our inspectors now focus more often on their own investigations. This is paying off.

“We are already seeing the results of these actions in practice: the number of reports to our information line of illegal bingos, lotteries and poker tournaments is steadily increasing. And that leaves you wanting more.”

Jansen looking for tighter land-based measures on RG

During his speech, KSA chairman Jansen stated he had visited a number of arcades to inspect the measures that land-based venues were taking to promote RG.

Jansen noted that not enough was being done to monitor players and protect them from irresponsible play by gambling excessively. None of the arcades Jansen visited had maximum time limits for players. This is particularly concerning for arcades that are open 24 hours a day and therefore cannot force players to leave.

All of the halls Jansen visited allowed players to bet on multiple machines at the same time. Some arcades don’t have a limit on how many machines a player can use concurrently. Jansen said this promotes “immoderate” play, with not all arcades monitoring players’ behaviour or limiting the number of transactions.

The role of Cruks

Cruks, the Netherlands’ self-exclusion scheme, is not being effectively utilised at land-based venues in Jansen’s view.

The open entrances of some arcades mean players who self-exclude can simply walk into land-based venues. Jansen stated this was an “easily mitigated risk factor” that needs addressing to help self-excluded players halt their gambling effectively.

While arcade workers are trained in Cruks, Jansen believes there are still some areas, such as the ability for land-based employees to register players for the scheme, in which knowledge is not at the required levels. Some venues have also failed to integrate an involuntary Cruks registration over an entire quarter. This is despite arcades being mandated to report players who are gambling in excessive amounts and not responding to anti-problem play measures.

“Compare it with the bartender at a café,” Jansen said. “His regular chat with regular guests is also a form of social control. We also see regular visitors in arcades.

“These are precisely what should catch the eye of employees. For them, a long playing time is seen as normal, while it is actually a signal of excessive gambling.”

Other RG measures the KSA is considering

Jansen is looking for increased care to be taken by land-based venues in terms of identification of problem players. Jansen wants addiction policies to pay closer attention to the length of players’ gambling sessions, as well as the number of machines bettors are playing on.

Additionally, Jansen and the KSA want to see fewer payments being made with credit cards.

Jansen also called for modernisation of legislation to increase the number of what he labelled “smart” arcades. In these arcades, bettors use cashless play to make it easier for operators to identify who players are, the duration of their play and how much they are betting. However, Jansen acknowledged that those systems would take time to implement with considerations such as the threat of money laundering needing to be taken into account.

“Turbulent” times for land-based venues

Jansen concluded by noting that these are “turbulent” times for the slot industry. This is especially true in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, compared to the online market.

The KSA chairman also highlighted that the rise of the online industry has likely taken a share of turnover away from land-based venues. Additionally, there is increasing pressure from illegal gambling.

Jansen also stated that both applying for and maintaining licences required a lot of work from providers. He believes it must be made attractive enough for companies to undertake that licensing work to ward them against straying into the black market.

Jansen notes change in the house of representatives’ view

The recent vote to prohibit online gambling advertising came after previous efforts to completely ban gambling advertising failed. The vote received industry backlash, with the Netherlands Online Gambling Association (NOGA) calling the moves “thoughtless and irresponsible”.

Despite the vote, the ban on online gambling advertising and online slots will now be passed over to Franc Weerwind, the Netherlands’ minister for legal protection, to review and make a decision on whether to enshrine the bans into law.

NOGA noted that Weerwind had previously kept a “cool head” before implementing measures on gambling. Jansen, meanwhile, highlighted the altering in the house of representatives’ view, as well as Weerwind’s previous comments against some of the 10 motions adopted by the house.

“It is clear. The view of a majority of the house of representatives on the regulation of the online market has clearly changed,” Jansen explained. “And what the future will look like is still unclear.”

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