Licensed online gambling can lead to a new generation of addicts, experts claim
Online gambling becoming legal in the Netherlands on Friday may result in a new generation of gambling addicts, addiction clinics fear. The new gambling law is too lenient, and gambling companies are therefore not sufficiently constricted, they said to newspaper AD.
The first concern is gambling advertisements. "From Friday it will become very visible that online gambling is now legal," Fred Sleutel of gambling addiction institution Hervitas said to the newspaper. "I fear that people who are just managing to keep their addiction under control, will be tempted to play. Then we as practitioners get more walk-ins, while we are already so busy because of corona."
According to Floor van Bakkum of Hellinek, there are at least 79 thousand problematic gamblers in the Netherlands. "Advertising would be necessary to point out the legal offer to people who play illegally. The reality is that we are just tapping into new groups of gamblers." She worries that gambling companies will focus on sponsoring sports clubs, which is allowed under the new law. "Many providers are going to sponsor football clubs, which attracts a large audience."
Tony van Rooij of the Trimbos Institute said that gambling companies will also sponsor sports clubs to reach the younger audience, which they cannot do with regular advertising under the new gambling law. The law states that providers are not allowed to target people under the age of 24 and can only advertise after 9:00 p.m. But that does not cover a football team wearing your logo on their jerseys during a match.
The addiction clinics think the law is not strict enough. "Although the law contains good preventive measures, the effect is often half-hearted," Sleutel said. For example, legal providers are obliged to get expert advice, but aren't obliged to adopt that advice. Van Bakkum also pointed out the mandatory warning when players exceed the maximum amount they set themselves. "Many providers send that warning by email, a pop-up message on the screen is much more effective," she said.
The Gambling Authority told AD that it welcomes the expert opinion on the gambling law and that they are drawing attention to the risks involved in online gambling. "We'll also keep our eyes open and will notify the Ministry of Justice and Security if we see that things are not right," a spokesperson said. He added that the Netherlands has one of the strictest gambling laws in Europe.