What a gamble!

Publish date 03-11-2023

by Stefano Caredda

A sensational growth, figures that signal an apparently unbridled situation, in which the illusion of a win that solves all one's economic problems with a single wave of a magic wand is the bait that leads to further economic and social impoverishment, with consequences that are often still hidden and destined to emerge sooner or later. Italy has become the country of gambling: slot machines, video lotteries, scratch cards, sports betting, lottery, roulette and card games no longer have any brakes and last year Italians spent exorbitant amounts in this sector figure of 136 billion euros, probably destined to be further exceeded during 2023.

What 136 billion euros of expenditure is is difficult to even explain: the government's economic package for this year was 35 billion euros, the overall expenditure on schools and education throughout the country is worth 52 billion euros per year, even the financing of the entire Health Service (128 billion euros expected in 2023) is a figure lower than the total spent on gambling.
Only food spending, i.e. what we put in the shopping cart every day, is even higher (160 billion in 2022). But for how much longer will it be? 136 billion euros are equivalent to 7% of the national GDP. Tourism, in a country of artistic and cultural beauty like Italy, is worth less: 6% of GDP. What are we becoming?

Online gambling has especially grown in the last three years (thanks to the closures of gaming halls due to Covid): 73 billion euros played online in 2022, double what happened in 2019. In a country which is also last places in Europe for internet connections, diffusion of wi-fi and high-speed territorial coverage. While online is exploding, physical gaming is slowly returning to pre-Covid levels. In short, there is no conflict between the two: the offer has expanded and there are more and more players. The average, considering the population between 18 and 74 years old, is 1,719 euros played in a year by each citizen. A fortune.
And look, it is played above all in the areas in the worst socio-economic situation: in the provinces of Benevento, Crotone, Reggio Calabria, Messina, Syracuse and Palermo triple or quadruple sums are played compared to Modena, Bergamo, Florence, Trieste, Padua and Verona.

Some research indicates that a growing number of minors are familiar with gambling and it is beginning to be evident that a series of video games, considered harmless, predispose one to gambling from childhood, such as those which simulate winnings or which require in-app purchases to continue playing.
It is played in class, in one's own room, in the absence of any social control possible in physical play. Where are we going?

The phenomenon of gambling, as we well know, has devastating social consequences.
Which is difficult to account for. Economic, personal and family disasters, destroyed marriages, ruined relationships, desperation, depression, even suicides: huge costs that are therefore destined to grow. What to do is a dilemma, there are no simple and pre-packaged recipes: but it is certainly not a good idea to pretend nothing happened. Opening your eyes is the first step to moving.

The popular initiative bill against pathological gambling was rejected by the majority of the Piedmont Regional Council in just a few minutes.
Let's play our game is the campaign launched by 40 third sector entities, 21 city councils and supported by 12 thousand voters in Piedmont to replace the current law which has caused a worrying increase in gambling.

Stefano Caredda
NP October 2023

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