It is not a surprise that gambling is a topic which attracts all kinds of reactions. However, to properly judge it, we should put it into a broader context, both historically and socially. Additionally, it should be acknowledged that, objectively speaking, lawful, ethical gambling is significantly profitable for society and helps to sustain public services through its taxes. If fair rules are properly observed, online and traditional gambling represent excellent opportunities to be exploited.
Since the beginning of time, humans have enjoyed the thrill of gambling. Defining the exact moment when gambling was invented is almost impossible, but we have found traces of the first games of chance in China dating from 2300 BC; dice have also been found in Egypt dating back to 1500 BC. The Romans loved to bet on anything from gladiator fights to simple dice games. However, with the advent of Christianity, gambling was opposed. It was later accepted only during the late Middle Ages in public places, such as taverns and inns. Thus, the practice of “bartering” was born, and the public gambling den was recognized by the local authorities as demonstrated by the fact that, in some municipalities, it was taxed. For example, in Amalfi in 1287, the tax consisted of the annual sum of 45 ounces to be levied by the manager of the “casino”.
The concept was refined as the Barattieri, or barterers, established themselves as a legitimate profession, and the creation of gambling houses was institutionalized. The first official casino opened in the Republic of Venice in 1638. The rules of use were strictly disciplined.
As we can see, from about the year 1300, the municipalities found that gambling was a helpful resource; governments shared the same outlook on gambling and betting throughout Europe. Nevertheless, the predominant stance by the authorities was to enforce tight control on betting and gaming while reserving some of the activity for themselves, such as state lotteries.
The control and validation by the state are currently applied in most European countries, as is the case with Denmark. To be considered lawful, Danish online casinos must be authorized by the state through the Danish Gambling Authority. CasinoOnline.dk, which is a comparison site, knows this and therefore carefully marks the casinos which are licensed on their site so the user can go to a trustworthy casino to have a good time. However, the state gives its autonomous territories, such as Greenland and the Svalbard Islands, the authority to decide the matter independently.
This strict stance towards gambling is unlike the position taken by other countries. As a result, several countries traditionally active in the gambling field have obtained international licenses to offer their services throughout the European countries.
Legal gambling and betting provide a steady flow of cash to the national treasury; this sum varies widely among the different European countries. For example, in Italy, it is estimated that a bit more than half of the total gambling market — worth around €20bn — goes into taxes. To make a comparison, the Italian budget law for 2019 amounted to €39.5bn.
In Denmark, the laws have never been liberal and have been recently tightened to encourage responsible gaming. For example, the Danish government has recently raised the tax rate for online games from 20% to 28% to maintain a balance with what is already happening with land-based gambling services which pay around 40% in taxes. They have also enforced stricter rules for advertising and player activity, which now require close identification and monitoring.
Until 2019, the total revenue of the gambling sector experienced a median growth of 4.4% annually, which is a total of approximately 7.5 bn DKK. However, it is no surprise that the more you squeeze the lemon, the less juice you get. In 2020, the figures released by the Danish national gambling regulator, Spillemyndigheden, showed that revenue amounted to 6 bn DKK. Moreover, the authority closed 25 illegal gambling websites.
While the director of the Spillemyndigheden has stated that the loss in revenue was directly connected to the current economic situation, events in other countries in Europe show the contrary.
For example, in Italy, online gambling revenue increased significantly in the period between 2019 and 2021. Between 2019 and 2021, the monthly stats have almost doubled, reaching between €80m to €160m per month. Other markets of the Eurozone have also experienced exceptional growth.
It seems as though a more liberal, market-oriented stance from the Danish regulatory body would improve the economy of the sector and of the entire country through the influx of more taxes. As it is, the current rigid attitude discourages investment in the industry and induces Danish residents to explore the, discouraged but legal, international gambling portals.
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