Online gambling companies should be held legally responsible if they don’t do enough to protect players against addiction and spending huge amounts of money on their services, the Dutch government’s addiction tzar said on Thursday.
Online gambling was legalized two years ago – ostensibly to protect punters – and this is the first analysis by government reporter Arnt Schellekens. In total 24 companies now have licences to target Dutch players in an industry which, Schellekens told Trouw, has had a “disastrous” impact.
Entitled “gambling with good health”, the report makes 22 recommendations to the government to clean up the industry which, Schellekens says, has caused an “unnecessary number of people problems, varying from debt to depression and suicide”.
Earlier this year, the Dutch gambling authority KSA said legalization had resulted in hundreds of thousands of new players and that licenced companies had earned €1.1 billion. It also said gambling firms had failed in their duty of care to protect players against addiction.
One point of weakness in the current system is the way players can open accounts with different companies and there is no link between them, Schellekens said. Players can also install their own limits on how much they are willing to gamble away, but there are no checks to see if they can afford to do so.
Schellekens has also recommended further limits on advertising, in line with those for cigarettes.
The government has brought in legislation to phase out ads on tv, radio and public places to protect gambling addicts and other vulnerable people. Ads are seen as the main driver for gambling, particularly if they feature well known (sports) personalities, a practice which has now also been banned.
Legal protection minister Franc Weerwind said earlier that he was planning to tighten up the rules and would give more details by the end of the year.
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