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Dutch trade bodies publish new voluntary code of conduct for ads

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Two Dutch trade bodies have together published a new voluntary code of conduct for online operators in the market, as the country’s online sector went live last week.

New online gaming trade association Vergunde Nederlandse Online Kansspelaanbieders (VNLOK) – made up of Holland Casino, FPO Nederland, JOI Gaming, Nederlandse Loterij and ZEbet – and cross-sector body VAN Kansspelen had agreed to work together to create a new code of conduct for advertising.

However, the bodies failed to finalise their code of conduct in time for the Dutch online market opening. Online gambling operators in the Netherlands went live on 2 October, after a malfunction with the country’s self-exclusion register pushed the start date back from 1 October.

“It is a pity that we have not been able to come up with a definitive advertising code for the opening of the online gambling market on 1 October,” VNLOK chair Helma Lodders said.

“We remain committed to arriving at a definitive code because making advertising proportionate is in the interest of consumers, advertisers and the providers of advertising time. 

“We have seen it in countries around us. If you don’t make proportional agreements,you risk an abundance of untargeted advertising and that provokes irritation and resistance among consumers.”

However, the bodies did produce a draft code, which they said members would abide by.

One feature of the draft code is that bonuses may not be advertised on broadcast media or outdoor locations such as billboards. The bodies said it was important to find a “balance” between reducing “undesirable behaviour” and restricting bonuses – an important channelisation tool – too tightly.

Under the draft code, operators should not use language that would “urgently” call for “excessive” behaviour – such as “you have nothing to lose”, “take your chance, you only live once” or “hurry up, gamble now”.

Marketing should also not play on gambling superstitions and should in no way trivialise risk factors related to gambling.

In addition, ads must not suggest that gambling is important to one’s life, can lead to social acceptance or happiness or can solve a player’s problems.

A different trade group – Netherlands Online Gambling Association (NOGA), whose members include Entain, Flutter, Kindred and Bet365 – also called for a new industry code of conduct itself last month. NOGA argued that rules implemented by the country’s advertising watchdog – such as a maximum of three online gambling ads per advertising “block” were too lenient, and that any such rules should apply across all sectors rather than just online.

Although online gambling is now live, only 10 operators have received licences. Remaining operators have been instructed to block all Dutch customers or face action from regulator De Kansspelautoriteit (KSA). Among those who have already announced they will do so are EntainBetsson, LeoVegas, Kindred, 888  and Casumo.