MPs call for monthly spending limit for online gamblers

Photo: Dutch News

MPs are calling for far tougher limits on how much online gamblers can spend a month following the publication of draft legislation to establish legal rules at the end of last year.

And clear majority support a proposal by ChristenUnie to introduce a monthly limit in total, not a limit per website, as the justice ministry is currently suggesting.

Legal protection minister Franc Weerwind said in December he plans to introduce a €700 monthly maximum for online gamblers to better protect them against addiction from April.

Currently, it is up to players to decide how much they want to spend, so alarm bells will only ring if they break that limit, even if it is set at €10,000. Nor are there any substantial controls on whether people can afford such amounts.

Weerwind’s new proposals include a much bigger role for gambling firms who will have to make personal contact with all punters wishing to introduce a monthly maximum of €350 or more. They must alert gamblers to the risks and point them towards help and support if they need it.

The rules will be stricter for the under-24s because research has shown they are more at risk of becoming addicted. They will be limited to a maximum of €300 per month and will face personal intervention from €150.

However, the limits will only apply on a company basis and problem gamblers will still be able to open accounts with more gambling firms. In total, 27 companies now have a licence to offer online gambling in the Netherlands.

ChristenUnie leader Mirjam Bikker said that an increasing number of youngsters are ending up in debt because of online gambling. “At the moment if you want to raise the limit, you call the gambling firm,” she said. “So that is not going to work. And a limit on how much you can lose a month is only going to work if it covers all providers.”

The national addiction watchdog warned in January that tens of thousands of people have been hit by financial problems as a result of the way online gambling was legalised three years ago.

Arnt Schellekens called on the government to take much stronger measures to tackle addiction and debt, which have mushroomed since the law was changed in 2021.

The government believed a regulated legal market would make it easier to help people who were gambling illegally on foreign websites, but the measures led to an explosion in people becoming addicted.

Measures like the spending limit were “sticking-plaster” solutions that would have little real impact, he said. “The problem is it’s a limit per provider. But we have more than 20 providers. So if you hit your limit, you can just go to another provider and carry on gambling. We need a single universal limit.”

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