The number of online gamblers’ accounts more than doubled to 860,000 in the second half of last year. Because someone is allowed to have multiple accounts, the actual number of players is lower. This involves an estimated 365,000 gamblers every month. More than 60 percent of the players are new; they didn’t gamble until the market was legalized a year and a half ago.
In total, the gambling companies earned a gross of just under 1.1 billion euros last year. The first figures for 2023 suggest that the growth of this so-called gross gaming result will continue unabated. Last January, this amounted to 124 million euros, an increase of 39 percent compared to the same month in 2021. The gamblers themselves mainly lose: the average loss per account is 143 euros per month.
This is stated in the fourth ‘monitoring report’ of the regulator the Gaming Authority (Ksa). According to chairman René Jansen, it was to be expected that the legalization would lead to a strong growth of the market. His concern lies rather in the fact that not all game providers fulfill their ‘duty of care’ equally well. In concrete terms, this means that they must be alert to signs of gambling addiction among their customers and the associated extreme gaming behaviour, with heavy losses in a short period of time. A study into this specific problem will be published later this fall.
Effect on gambling addiction not yet clear
According to the Ksa, nothing can be said at this time about the exact effect of the legalization of online gambling on the number of players who report to addiction care. Experts point out that it takes addicts years to come to terms with their problem and seek professional help.
It does become clear from the report that until this month 38,000 people had registered in a register with which they voluntarily opt for a ‘gambling stop’ of at least six months. At that time, they could not legally play online anywhere, including in casinos or arcades. According to the Ksa, that number grew strongly during the World Cup football at the end of last year.
This was particularly the case with men, many of whom apparently lost a lot of money in sports betting during that period. However, this type of betting does not make up the majority of the gambling companies’ turnover. These are mainly casino games such as roulette and slot machines, which account for 72 percent of the market.
Attention to young adults
This report pays extra attention to young adults; a group that is above average vulnerable to gambling addiction. They play more often than people in the older age groups, but for smaller amounts. On average, they lose 54 euros per account per month.
The Gaming Authority is pleased with the fact that 92 percent of online gamblers now play exclusively on legal websites. The target was at least 80 percent.
Thousands of euros lost in one night
According to Tony van Rooij, who conducts research into gaming and gambling at the Trimbos Institute, the report shows that “what everyone feared has come true”: that many new players are joining the ranks. “With all the associated risks, because long-term online gambling is by definition harmful to health. People lose money because of it, and some people lose an extremely large amount of money.”
Van Rooij would like to know more about the latter group, information that he misses in the latest figures from the Gaming Authority. “An average of 143 euros lost per month means nothing; it is about how that average is composed. And in particular about the 1 or 2 percent who can lose thousands of euros in an evening. Remember: the legalization was intended to better protect gamblers than in the old situation, not to tap into a large new target group.”
Incidentally, the cabinet previously decided to ban gambling advertisements on TV, radio and in bus shelters as of 1 July. That advertising, especially in the first period with well-known Dutch people, is seen as one of the important drivers of the strong growth of online gambling.
Floor van Bakkum of addiction institution Jelinek agrees that the effect of this growth cannot yet be properly estimated by care providers. “But you can of course expect an effect in the longer term. And I am at least as concerned at the moment about the larger group of people who lose more money than they actually have. They do not necessarily get into the addiction problem, but they do get into the debt problem.”
- Untargeted advertising for online games of chance banned from 1 July
- More money for gambling commercials in the run-up to the ban
- Gaming Authority fines illegal gambling sites for more than 26 million euros