Protecting and informing consumers
The law protects the consumer by making it compulsory for gambling providers to inform consumers promptly and properly about the game in question, the applicable conditions (costs, prizes, and period of subscription) and any risks of addiction. So as to have consumers be able to participate in safe and reliable games of chance, the Netherlands Gaming Authority ensures that gambling operators observe their obligations towards consumers. The Netherlands Gaming Authority is also charged with providing consumers with information on games of chance. An Information Line staffed by information officials is available for consumers to ask questions or file complaints on games of chance and licensees. The Netherlands Gaming Authority in 2015 received 2,156 consumer questions in total.
Gambling operators are to observe the obligations they have towards consumers. The Netherlands Gaming Authority in this connection monitors:
- the licensees (regular monitoring);
- licensee integrity;
- the reliability of the games on offer;
- the transparency of the games on offer;
- the promotion and advertising activities of the licensees.
Regular monitoring of licensees
The Netherlands Gaming Authority regularly monitors licensees, mainly to investigate whether the operator observes its obligations. Regular monitoring is a continuous process. Specific reports on a licensee may result in more in-depth investigation, consultations with the licensee on their way of operating, or requests for further clarification.
In addition, thematic monitoring is conducted of a specific component of all (relevant) gaming industry sectors or operators. The objective of such thematic monitoring is to investigate the possible methods for keeping risks manageable. The themes are selected during special sessions held internally by the Netherlands Gaming Authority. Finally, the Netherlands Gaming Authority also conducts ad hoc monitoring.
So as to prevent licensees using their license to operate (slot machines) for criminal purposes, the Netherlands Gaming Authority assesses the integrity of current and potential operators on the basis of the Public Administration (Probity Screening) Act.
What does such assessment involve?
When an operator applies for a license, the Netherlands Gaming Authority first assesses the sources of funding and organisational structure of the applicant. It then checks which persons act as capital providers, managers and/or directors. Next, it assesses the applicant’s criminal and regulatory records. The Netherlands Gaming Authority may in this connection request a recommendation from the National Public Administration Probity Screening Agency.
Should the applicant fail (parts of) the test, this may impact the license (application). The Netherlands Gaming Authority may in such case decide to reject the application or to revoke an existing license. This allows for safe and reliable offerings of games of chance and protects the consumer, bona fide entrepreneurs and the integrity of the gaming industry as a whole.
Reliability of the games on offer
In 2015, the Netherlands Gaming Authority, in the performance of its duty to regularly monitor licensees, visited two lottery providers. The goal of these visits was to obtain a better view of how licensees organise themselves as concerns the reliability of their games on offer. The licensees visited both make use of risk management systems. Risks that may affect reliability are analysed, assessed and brought down to acceptable levels by the licensees. In addition, all lottery machines and electronic processes undergo annual repeat inspections, the reports of which are submitted to the Netherlands Gaming Authority. Slot machine licensees (parties holding a license to operate these machines) are required to have all new games and devices they would like to offer be approved in advance by a recognised institution.
Transparency of the games on offer
Where necessary, the Netherlands Gaming Authority organises meetings with licensees to impart standards on providing information to consumers. The meetings held in the past year focused on clarity and completeness with respect to: the games on offer, the gaming rules, the prizes to be won and the chances of winning a prize. In addition, the Netherlands Gaming Authority informed licensees of their duty to comply with consumer law and formulated a new reporting obligation: licensees are to report to the regulator on turnover and prizes to be won on the level of the individual games.
The Netherlands Gaming Authority considers it important that consumers should be able to have no difficulties understanding a game offered by a licensee, to know what prizes can be won and to realise their chances of winning a certain prize. It in this connection issued the “Lotteries: chances of winning, prizes and award percentages” fact sheet. The aim of this publication is to provide a better overview of the various lottery elements, allowing consumers to better decide whether or not to take part in a lottery.
Transparent communication on prizes
To the Netherlands Gaming Authority, providing clarity to the consumer is key. The consumer is to have a clear overview of the prizes to be won when taking part in lotteries and of the way these prizes are awarded. While the average consumer assumes that the prizes advertised will in fact be awarded, in practice some of them are not guaranteed to be awarded and the winning numbers for others are drawn from a so-called “universe”, which means that the numbers are drawn from a list including unsold lottery tickets. So as to increase transparency in this connection, the Netherlands Gaming Authority has laid down new license regulations on transparent communication, which will become applicable to all multi-year lottery licenses on 1 April 2016. From that day onward, lotteries will, in their promotional materials, have to specify which prizes are not guaranteed to be awarded. They also need to specifcy whether unsold tickets are included in a draw and state the proportion of sold to unsold tickets.
Promotional and advertising activities by licensees
So as to more efficiently and more effectively monitor the promotional and advertising activities of gambling operators, the Netherlands Gaming Authority started up a project to better shape its regulatory activities. One of the results of the project is the development of a guideline for current and future licensees and advertising agencies. These guidelines will provide gambling operators and advertising agencies with frameworks for creating and designing advertisements for games of chance. The Netherlands Gaming Authority surveys and analyses the advertising activities by licensees. In so doing, it obtains a better picture of the advertising strategies used to promote the various games offerings.
Everyone in the Netherlands should be able to participate in games of chance in a reliable environment. The Netherlands Gaming Authority works to ensure this. One way of doing so is by granting licenses for, for instance, organizing lotteries and operating slot machine. So as to improve monitoring, it also issues marks for slot machines, allowing municipal regulators to identify the machine as being compliant with the rules.
Supporting the consumer is key to the Netherlands Gaming Authority. In addition to protecting consumers, the Netherlands Gaming Authority also employs various methods to provide consumers with information, for instance by informing them of their rights and obligations via social media. The Netherlands Gaming Authority also issues warnings should it believe them to be warranted. In addition, the information officials available on its Information Line stand ready to answer consumer questions on everything related to games of chance every day.
The Netherlands Gaming Authority informs its target groups via an Information Line, its website www.kansspelautoriteit.nl, by e-mail and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. In addition to informing consumers, the Netherlands Gaming Authority also deals with complaints from consumers pertaining to gambling and slot machine operators. The Netherlands Gaming Authority also registers complaints about slot machines and reports about illegal gambling and, if necessary, warns consumers about illegal gambling.
If a licensee does not resolve a complaint to a consumer’s satisfaction, the complaint may be filed with the Netherlands Gaming Authority. Consumers are always first to file their complaints with the organizer of a game of chance. This procedure ensured a considerable decrease in the number of complaints on licensees in 2015. In 2014, the Netherlands Gaming Authority received 54 complaints, a number that went down to 34 complaints in 2015.