Netherlands – Prohibition on use of “role models” in high-risk games of chance advertising

As a result of an amendment to the Betting and Gambling Advertising Regulation (Regeling werving, reclame en verslavingspreventie, Regulation) the use of so called role models in advertising for high-risk games of chance will no longer be allowed in the Netherlands from 30 June 2022. All existing advertising in breach must also be discontinued by this date. With this prohibition, the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection aims to address societal concerns that have arisen as a result of the rise in betting and gambling advertisements, following the legalisation of online games of chance in the Netherlands in April 2021.

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The scope of the prohibition

High-risk games of chance

The prohibition solely applies to high-risk games of chance. These are all games of chance of which, per the Dutch Media Act 2008, advertising may only be broadcast between 21:00 – 06:00, such as instant lottery (scratch-offs), national sports betting, totalizator (horse racing), casinos, gambling halls and online games of chance.

Low-risk games of chance are exempted from the prohibition, as they are deemed to have a significantly lower risk profile and namely carry a lower risk for addiction. These are all games of chance of which, per the Dutch Media Act 2008, advertising may be broadcast between 19:00 – 06:00, namely the state lottery, the lotto and the charity lottery.

Role models

Role models should be understood to include persons of public renown and persons with whom other persons wish to identify or associate. To offer further guidance, on this somewhat ambiguous notion, the Regulation specifies with examples two categories of role models.

Firstly, role models are persons that derive their fame from former or current activities in:

  • professional sport, e.g. professional athletes and trainers;
  • the entertainment industry, e.g. actors, directors, presenters and singers;
  • the beauty and fashion industry, e.g. models and designers;
  • online or other media, e.g. authors, journalists, columnists, influencers, vloggers and bloggers;
  • politics, e.g. representatives of political parties in national, regional or local politics; and
  • publicly visible roles relating to games of chance, e.g. a frequent participant in games of chance.

Secondly, role models are persons who visibly exercise or portray an office or profession that sets an example to society, such as doctors, police, and teachers.

The Board of Directors of the Dutch Gambling Authority may, to further increase legal certainty, put forward policy rules regarding the application of the prohibition. That being said, it can already be concluded from the examples included in the Regulation that the threshold for the prohibition to apply is fairly low.

Exceptions to prohibition

The prohibition does not apply to the use of role models in advertising that includes non-gambling related activities  with role models in gambling venues if 1) the activities do not concern a person with a publicly visible role in games of chance; and 2) the date and the venue of the activities are mentioned in the advertisement.

Therefore, the advertising of a dinner prepared by a well-known chef, a signing session of a well-known writer or the performance of a well-known singer in a gambling venue would still be possible.

Furthermore, individual professional athletes and sport teams may still be sponsored by betting and gambling companies. The Minister explained in the explanatory note to the amendment of the Regulation that sponsoring (e.g. shirt or material sponsoring), can be considered a passive form of advertising which carries less direct risks for vulnerable groups. The prohibition also does not limit gambling companies in sponsoring events or television shows.

What’s next?

The prohibition on the use of role models comes into effect on 30 June 2022 and the Dutch Gambling Authority will be ready to enforce the prohibition from said date. This is not, however, a stand-alone legislative amendment. Further restrictions are planned to further curtail the advertising for games of chance, most notably through a prohibition on untargeted advertising that is expected to be introduced in an amendment to the Dutch Betting and Gambling Act.

The Dutch minister for Legal Protection expects to have the amendment proposal for the Dutch Betting and Gambling Act ready for consultation before the summer of 2022. In addition, an amendment to the Betting and Gambling Advertising Decree  (Besluit werving, reclame en verslavingspreventie kansspelen) is expected as well as further arrangements by the sector in the form of self-regulation in the Advertising Code for Online Games of Chance.

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