Way back in 1975, the Dutch government gave the sole licence to operate casinos in the Netherlands to its own company: Holland Casino. The aim, the government said, was to clean up the industry and reduce addiction to gambling.
But now, TV programme Zembla reports that Holland Casino has failed in its efforts – gambling addicts are continuing to gamble and money launderers are continuing to launder money. Now there is a surprise.
Holland Casino, with its 14 branches, is hardly a shy, retiring company. Quite the contrary, in fact. It is a very aggressive advertiser – luring new customers with its clever TV spots and billboards.
But the active promotion of gambling as a ‘fun activity’, asides – why is gambling treated differently to other addictions? After all, the state is happy to allow the drinks industry to come up with a voluntary code of conduct to stop teenagers turning into alcoholics.
Foreign casinos are queuing up to get a foot in the Dutch door and the European Commission has warned that the Netherlands is breaking all sorts of EU rules. But so far, the government has stood its ground. And five new casinos are in the pipeline to meet demand.
Hardly surprising, really. In 2005, Holland Casino earned €114m for the treasury. Now that’s a gamble that certainly paid off!