Banks unwilling to curb clients’ spending on gambling

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The Dutch banks will not help the cabinet to impose a limit the amount of money people can spend online gambling because of privacy concerns, banking association NVB has said ahead of talks with the justice ministry later this week.

Legal protection minister Franc Weerwind had asked banks to intervene in cases of excessive spending on gambling as a stop-gap measure until a law on spending limits can be implemented.

But banks have said they are not keen. “We see that the number of people with gambling debts is increasing but we are surprised the solution for the problem is deemed to be our responsibility,” NVB spokesman Ronit van der Schaaf told broadcaster NOS.

Banks are legally obliged to check for money laundering practices or transfers involving terrorism but do not monitor other transactions, such as the transfer of large amounts to gambling companies. “We cannot simply look in on what people are doing and a good thing too. We and our clients value this,” Van der Schaaf said.

The banks said there are easier ways of preventing people from incurring debt, such as prohibiting the use of credit cards and limiting advertising.

However, “a ban on credit cards would not help,” a ministry spokesman said. “People will deposit money from their card onto their current account and use that.” Credit cards are not used “excessively” he said, and a gambling limit imposed by banks would be more effective.

The banks said they would not emulate British banks by blocking payments from gamblers. At the moment that is only being done by Lithuanian banking app Revolut which is also active in the Netherlands.

Online gambling was legalised in October 2021. Since then, hundreds of thousands of new players have started gambling online, gambling watchdog KSA estimated, many of whom have incurred problematic debts leading to depression and thoughts of suicide.

Multiple accounts

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. Weerwind said in December he plans to introduce a €700 monthly maximum for online gamblers to better protect them against addiction.

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.

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.

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