Italy Facing Potential Social Crisis Over Gambling Addiction
We have discussed the ongoing debate on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs )in the UK at length. The idea of gambling machines sprouting up everywhere is a common problem throughout the gambling world. The age old debate of how much gambling helps government revenues versus the social damage it does is always in the eyes of the beholder.
An interesting piece in the New York Times touches on the problems Italy is facing. When thinking of Italy one conjures up images of of designer clothes, spectacular cuisine and beautifully designed sports cars. However many do not realize that Italy is the largest gambling market in Europe and the fourth largest in the World following United States, Japan and Macau. These figures provided by the Global Betting and Gaming Consultants are well worth discussion as gambling revenues in Italy are expected to reach surpass the $22.4 billion of 2012.
It is estimated that one in every eight dollars spent by an Italian family goes towards gambling which is an increase of more than four times than that of fifteen years ago. With figures like these many are calling on the government to limit the amount of machines allowed in order to prevent a national crisis.The problem lies in the fact that the government is heavily reliant on gambling revenues which amounted to over $11 billion last year. This according to a lawmakers results in the government getting the profits while the local regions only get the problems.
Critics lean on studies like that of the University of Rome who in 2012 estimated that there were 790,000 Italians at risk of gambling addiction. Gambling companies are quick to refute these numbers and claim that the addiction rates are in lines with what is acceptable in Europe. They also point out that gross payout in winnings is high and can reach up to 98% of what is bet in online gambling, In fact they claim that by law at least 85% of the highly popular Video Lottery Terminals( VLT’s) payout which is the main reason for them being played so much.
The positive side to this potential crisis is the fact that amongst all parties there is a consensus that the Italian gambling market is mature and there is a need for restructuring. There are proposals that include reducing the number of gambling locations, slot machines and limit the concentration of machines permitted in a single hall.
If that’s not enough to take into account there is also the aspect of jobs. Currently there are over 200,000 workers employed in the gambling industry and any crackdown could result in massive job cuts which the struggling economy cannot afford. Shop owners who enjoy bonus revenues from gambling machines would also not readily give up their cash cows without an alternative source of revenue.
Italy is the classic case of what makes the issue of gambling so complex. Finding the balance between a healthy gambling industry and a well-balanced society is not easy at all to say the least.