Posted May 8, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Gambling addiction takes its toll in Italy


The Italians have always had a love of a little flutter ad like so many other countries, as markets have deregulated, gambling has also come under scrutiny resulting in relaxations of control and significant expansion of activity.

Ever since the 1990s successive governments have struggled with huge public debts and have seen gambling tax revenue as a way of solving their debt problems. In 2001 gambling revenue stood at $5.6 billion but that figure quadrupled to $22.4 in eleven years.

In the final days when Silvio Berlusconi was in power, his government authorised plans to create 1,000 gambling arcades. Dubbed video-poker salons there were many at the time who were concerned about the pace of social change in the country. Italy had always been a frugal nation, a nation of savers, but the relaxing of gambling law saw a dramatic shift towards problem gambling.

In the early days of Mario Monti’s administration, there was an attempt to halt or at least curb the progress of the Belusconi gambling halls with measures in the 2013 budget, but the measures were thrown out by lawmakers keen to seek a timely dissolution of parliament for the holidays.

Gambing mania had begun seizing Italy since the mid 2000s and Belusconi’s swansong was to prove devastating. Figurees in some regions report the numbers of gambling addicts seeking help, rising by 76 percent in one 12 month period. By 2010, per capita spending on gambling was the fifth highest in the world.

Throughout Italy’s struggles with the Eurozone crisis, the Italian gambling industry had appeared to be immune to the recession and the answer possibly lies in a survey of 2,000 students in Pavia. 5 percent had close relatives who were gamblers and respondents gave “getting rich” as the single biggest reason to gamble.

The national response to the situation has been patchy to say the least. Municipal and regional governments are always the ones left to deal with the problems in Italy and some have moved to curb the spread of video-poker halls. Unfortunaely the national government only sees this as an assault on their exchequer revenues hand has passed legislation that allows them to withhold funding to local authorities who actively campaign and legislate against gambling. The legislation was eventually defeated but it certainly indicates a fragmented approach across thecopuntry towards dealing with the problem.