Dutch Gaming Authority Fines bet365 Subsidiary for Advertising Breaches
The Dutch Gaming Authority Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has announced that it has imposed a fine on bet365 subsidiary Hillside New Media Malta for a breach of its newly-introduced advertising rules for the betting and gaming industry. According to KSA, Hillside showed advertising, promotions, and bonus offers on its betting sites to young adults aged 18-24, which is not allowed under the new rules.
KSA is the latest gaming authority in Europe to tighten betting and gaming regulations and rules and strictly enforce them by investigating, fining, or even suspending betting sites and bookmakers. Another example comes from Germany, where the tightening of betting and gaming rules affected the betting sites operated by Entain Group (owner of leading UK betting sites Ladbrokes and Coral), that the regulatory and enforcement action was cited by the company as one of the reasons why the gross gaming revenue of its betting sites was down by 1% for FY2022 compared to FY2021.
Meanwhile, betting sites in the United Kingdom have been experiencing the stringent measures taken by the UK Gambling Commission, which investigated and fined a number of popular UK betting sites due to their processes and procedures in relation to social responsibility and anti-money laundering not being up-to-scratch. Notably, Entain Group was hit with a record £17m fine, which resulted in the company calling for clearer and better-defined rules and regulations across the industry.
In terms of Hillside, the fine that the company will have to pay to KSA is €400,000 (£352,500). Commenting on the issue, KSA explained:
“Vulnerable groups, such as young adults, must be given extra protection. The brains of young people are still developing. As a result, they are extra vulnerable to developing gambling addiction. Gaming providers must fully respect the rules intended to protect vulnerable groups. That did not happen here and therefore this fine.”
More specifically, KSA reports that young adults aged 18-24 who held accounts with Hillside between 26th October 2021 and 1st February 2022 were found to have been subjected to “directed advertisements and bonuses”, which goes against the newly tightened Dutch advertising laws concerning betting sites. Hillside found itself under investigation by KSA after Dutch TV broadcast the programme Kassa, a popular local consumer show which carries out investigations and checks on various services and products.
The new advertising rules in the Netherlands were introduced in 2022 after various interested parties in the country expressed their concerns about the increase of advertising of betting services. Under the new rules, betting sites and companies licenced to operate in the Netherlands cannot use “un-targeted advertising”, meaning that young people aged 18-24 cannot be subjected to marketing materials, and any commercial activity needs to be targeted at older bettors and prospective customers.
The UK has similar advertising laws around betting. For example, betting sites are not allowed to use celebrities who appeal to young people in their advertising campaigns. For example, in February 2022, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled on several complaints into betting site Paddy Power using Peter Crouch for promotional tweets. The bookmaker was found not to be in breach of advertising standards. Similarly, betting site Sky Bet was accused of breaching the rules by using footballer Micah Richards in its campaigns. Again, the website was found not to be at fault, as Richards, just like Crouch, was deemed a pundit and not influential amongst younger people.
Betting sites operating in the Netherlands will consider carefully their ads in the future, especially because bet365 is not the only company to have been recently fined by KSA for breach of regulations. Large casino operator Gammix has been subjected to a substantial fine for running “illegal games of chance” in the country. Gammix has had to pay the maximum fine available to KSA – €4.5m (£3.97m). This was collected as a charge of €1.47m (£1.3m) a week, and Gammix could have limited the damage to its finances by stopping the games after week 1, however the company denied wrongdoing and challenged the regulator’s decision, and therefore the weekly fines continued until the maximum amount under law was collected. The KSA has commented, stating that “Anyone who violates and continues to do so must pay. It’s that simple.’
The tightening of rules and regulations across Europe is an indication of the future of the UK gaming and betting industry with the publishing of the now overdue White Paper on gambling, which was expected to be published in February 2023. Similarly to Germany and the Netherlands, industry experts are expecting tightening of a number of rules in relation to gambling harm prevention, social responsibility, and the operation of regulated betting sites in the UK.