On the 10th of January 2019 the District Court of the Hague (“Court”) rejected the appeal by Content Publishing Limited (“Content Publishing”), which manages websites on which visitors are ‘informed’ about online games of chance. According to the Court it was apparent that Content Publishing directed visitors to unlicensed gambling operators, which constitutes an infringement of the Betting and Gaming Act (Wet op de kansspelen).
Content Publishing argued that the Gambling Authority interprets Article 1(1)(b) of the Betting and Gaming Act, which prohibits the promotion of illegal games of chance, too broadly. As a result, the Gambling Authority wrongly qualified the editorial and informative texts on the website as promoting illegal games of chance.
The Court disagrees, and considers, that the promotional texts, specifically designed websites, catchy domain names and the promised bonusses sufficiently prove that the primary purpose of Content Publishing was to direct potential players to unlicensed online gambling operators (“operators”).
To date the Gambling Authority has only subjected those affiliates to enforcement measures which were advertising sanctioned operators. Here too, advertisements of Content Publishing for sanctioned operators acted as a trigger for the Gambling Authority to initiate an investigation. The Court held, however, that even though Content Publishing – after a caution by the Gambling Authority – no longer promoted sanctioned operators, it still violated current legislation through advertising operators which had not received a fine.
In doing so the Court confirms the view of the Gambling Authority and although the decision does not contain any surprises, it will be interesting to see if and how the enforcement policy of the Gambling Authority towards affiliates changes in its aftermath.
Furthermore, the Gambling Authority faces a challenge in relation to advertisements on social media, namely the difficulties associated with distinguishing between commercial advertising and (non-commercial) user-generated content; what are the boundaries and is effective enforcement by the Gambling Authority on social media possible? Such issues are addressed by, Dr Alan Littler and fellow co-authors in their research for the European Commission: ‘Evaluation of regulatory tools for enforcing online gambling rules and channelling demand towards controlled offers: An Overview of the Report Completed for the European Commission’.
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