" Sport bets. The bookmakers win the day”, on Arte: when players’ addiction brings in millions of euros

“My name is Steve Ramsey, I'm 50, I've been a compulsive gambler

" Sport bets. The bookmakers win the day”, on Arte: when players’ addiction brings in millions of euros

“My name is Steve Ramsey, I'm 50, I've been a compulsive gambler. I could make 300-400 bets a day. At my worst, I was losing between 17,000 and 23,000 euros every month. » Steve Ramsey lost control. To the point of imagining that suicide was the only way out. He was caught, like hundreds of thousands of other players in Europe, in the sports betting machine.

Raphaël won the jackpot: 750,000 euros. But Winamax deploys an entire arsenal not to resolve it. Under the pressure, he breaks down and loses the entire amount on the platform in thirty-six hours. He then enters illegality to find money and the vicious spiral accelerates: the merchant multiplies bank debts and tax audits, divorces and faces a probable seizure of his house in addition to a prison sentence.

How have these platforms taken over sports, phones and gamers’ minds to the point of addiction? Linda Bendali carried out a remarkable investigation in the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain to understand the mechanics of this industry where “only the losers are welcome,” she says. His documentary, very educational and pleasantly provided with figures, is very valuable because it provides the very rare testimony of former employees and managers, who reveal the manipulation techniques and tricks of these platforms. “It’s become the new cigarette,” says Stewart Kenny, co-founder and long-time CEO of the number one multinational gambling company, Flutter, which operates under its Paddy Power and PokerStars brands.

“We give the first dose”

Since the liberalization of this Internet market by the European Union in 2003, the industry has exploded: for the last Football World Cup, the king sport of these platforms, records were broken. In France, 615 million euros were bet on the competition in 2022 (including 55 million on the final alone) compared to 366 million in 2018.

Recruitment of influencers, generalized advertising targeting, financing of football clubs through sponsorship, multiplication of betting possibilities, free bets, everything is good to attract players, particularly the youngest and less fortunate, and reap the profits. Even if it means knowingly targeting people in debt or living in public housing. “We give the first dose,” explains a former employee of a gaming company. In the first half of 2023, Flutter recorded the arrival of nearly three million bettors.

How do these gambling industrialists manage to advance their notoriously toxic business? Testimonies from players, analyzes from experts and speeches from those in charge are edited in such a way that they respond to each other, in rigorous contradictory work. The gaming lobbies, who have no shortage of money, are very present in the European Parliament and practice their blackmail over employment or taxation. Faced with them, civil society is organizing itself to provide the State, torn between the taxes derived from this activity and the enormous social cost it generates, with something to finally act. In the documentary, Spanish collectives seem to show a path to explore.