Denmark to boost consumer protection with new code of conduct

18 March 2019

A new code of conduct for gaming operators active in the Danish market has been published, with the aim of strengthening consumer protection and lowering the risk of gambling addiction in the country.

Due to come into force on July 1, 2019, the code aims to set limits and offer tools that go beyond regulatory requirements to help protect consumers. It has been drawn up by igaming operator body the Danish Online Gaming Association (DOGA), in partnership with the country's slot machine operator association Dansk Automat Brancheforening, and the country's casino operator body Dansk Kasinoforening and the Aarhus-based Royal Casino. Also involved in the creation of the code were lottery operators Danske Lotteri Spil, Klasselotteriet, Landbrugslotteriet and Varelotteriet.

The new code has been drawn up as a direct result of the Agreement on New Actions Against Gaming Addiction and the Game Agreement Adjustment of June 29, 2018, a political agreement that saw the Danish government commit to ensuring operators do their utmost to protect players.

Designed to attract support from the entire Danish gambling industry, the code states Denmark is already some way ahead of other European countries in terms of protection. It cites a 2016 survey showing problem gambling is less prevalent in Denmark than in Norway, Finland and England.

The DOGA also says the new code should be seen as a benchmark, setting out the minimum standards for the industry, and that individual licensees can introduce stricter controls if they deem necessary.

“It is the intention of this code to strengthen consumer protection and ensure gambling does not evolve from entertainment to addiction,” the code states.

The code builds on existing consumer protection controls regulations by setting out a number of new measures that the DOGA said are designed to further enhance protection efforts.

These include restrictions for adverts on television, with the industry to work with commercial stations to set limits on when gambling ads can be shown, banning such adverts around children’s programming and possibly halting ads being shown in the same slots as payday loans providers.

Restrictions on advert content also feature in the code, including a requirement that adverts do not suggest gambling is a way to success or social acceptance. Operators must also use data tools to ensure web and social media advertising is not seen by under-18s

New restrictions for marketing materials state that ads cannot be aimed at young people via the choice of media or the context of the marketing, while materials may not show or encourage socially irresponsible gambling behaviour that can lead to financial, social or emotional harm.

Operators should also ensure their marketing materials do not inappropriately exploit weaknesses, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge among vulnerable people, or indicate that games can be an escape from personal, professional or educational problems such as loneliness or depression.

Such materials must not suggest games can be a solution to financial problems or portray gambling as indispensable or something that takes precedence over life. Adverts must not connect games with seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness, utilise cultural beliefs for games or luck or indicate that games on their own are preferable to social games.

All ads must carry responsible gaming messaging that is prominently displayed and warns consumers to maintain their limits and be aware of how much they are gambling. Age limits should also be shown on ads, including 18+ for casino and sports betting, and 16+ for lottery games, while sponsorship restrictions mean gambling logos must not appear on merchandise designed for children.

Restrictions for web and social media mean all operators must carry responsible gaming information on their website, as well as clearly display age restrictions on social media platforms. In addition, where possible, operators should use age restrictions to block minors from viewing their pages.

The code also set out how pop-up windows should be used to inform players as to how long they have been playing and how much money the have spent. The players must acknowledge they have read the message by clicking to continue playing or clicking to stop gambling.

In addition, operators will now be required to set up a complaints body to deal with breaches of the code by those committed to upholding its principles.

The DOGA intends to review its new code at least once to year to establish if it needs to make changes to any of the new measures.

Denmark currently requires licensees ensure all marketing is legal and not misleading. Marketing must also be socially responsible and have a special focus on protecting children, young people and vulnerable audiences.

Operators are also required to ensure the marketing of gambling is not targeted at children and young people under the age of 18, either in communication design or media selection, while marketing must not use well-known personalities to imply that gambling has contributed to their success.

Other existing controls state that gambling marketing must not have content that gives the impression participation in games of chance promotes a solution to financial problems or gives the player social acceptance, while marketing should show the chances of winning in a correct and balanced manner so as not to create the impression the chance of winning is greater than it actually is.

Denmark has an ongoing commitment to improving protection in gambling and in December was singled out by the European Gaming and Betting Association for its efforts. The trade body said Denmark is the only European Union member state that is fully embracing consumer protection guidelines.

However, national gambling regulator Spillemyndigheden in January admitted it still faces challenges with unlicensed igaming sites, despite claiming that it is succeeding in reducing the size of the country’s illegal gambling market.

Shortly after this, the Danish government announced a range of new measures that it said have been designed to improve player protection standards. Such measures include mandatory deposit limits and a requirement for problem gambling support resources to be prominently displayed.

Publication of the code comes after Dutch gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit this month also launched a consultation to gather opinion from the industry and other stakeholders about new player protection measures for the country’s own regulated igaming market.

Last month, the Dutch Senate passed the Remote Gaming Act, paving the way for the roll-out igaming regulations in the country. However, although the regulations state that operators must have a ‘duty of care’ to consumers, it has been left to the KSA to decide what this constitutes.

Image: Matt Kieffer