[Column] Gambling advertising

Bas Rooijakkers gets very annoyed by the gambling advertisements on TV and at the campus bus stops. Given the growing number of young adult gambling addicts, this is not good.

Bas Rooijakkers: “Until a new Cabinet takes office, I’m holding my breath.” (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

At first I didn’t notice them, but now it’s like I see them all day. During the Football World Championships, there were TOTO advertisements in every TV break and there are ads at the bus stops all over campus. Since online gambling was legalised, it seems to have become a booming business in the Netherlands. In 2022, online gambling reached one billion euros (in Dutch) and was mostly done by young adults. I have a couple of friends who arrived at a party late because they were involved in an online poker tournament.

I don’t mind if people gamble – each to their own. It’s just that the advertising is so very annoying and misleading. They always say things like ‘WIN! WIN! WIN!’ and ‘You may win 10 million!’ while the opposite is the case. You do not win in casinos, the odds are always against you. You only have a 1% to 2% higher chance of winning if you are with a group of professionals and count the cards. Otherwide it’s usually the casino that wins. Casinos are there to make money, not hand it out.

The Netherlands has the unfortunate system that the casinos are owned by the state. The rationale behind this is that people are going to gamble anyway, so it is better to offer this safely to cut out the illegal activities. I get this. But with online gambling there are also international shareholders that compete with the Netherlands, so this argument does not apply.

This is sloppy as the Netherlands has advertising bans on lots of bad things

Gambling was made legel in the Netherlands in October 2021 under the ‘Wet Koa’ (law governing online gambling). It does not mention a general ban on advertising. To my mind this is sloppy as the Netherlands has advertising bans on lots of bad things. No ads are permitted for smoking and are only permitted between 21:00 and 06:00 for alcoholic drinks. But there are no restrictions for gambling ads, which means that young people see them too.

I went to a casino once and won. I went out with a couple of friends and we had the brilliant idea of betting EUR 25 on red and then leaving. We were in luck – it fell on red and we got EUR 50. Very happy and filled with adrenaline we left the casino, even though we really wanted to try to double the EUR 50. Luckily we could stop ourselves.

Much research has been done on this, but I believe that it is easy to assume that: more gambling ads lead to more gambling addicts. There are about 180,000 people in the Netherlands who are addicted to gambling. Now that the economy is not doing that well, I hope that the gambling ads do not encourage people to spend their last few cents on online slot machines. I bet that politicians have also taken notice of this, so hopefully I will only see advertisements for telephone subscriptions and perfumes at the bus stops soon.

Bas Rooijakkers is a master’s student in Applied Physics. He was born in Brabant and spent part of his youth on Curaçao. He enjoys jogging and since the corona pandemic has also picked up cycling. He is also always in for a coffee or a craft beer.

Bas Rooijakkers / Columnist

Columnist Bas Rooijakkers

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