Industry Reports

Italy Sees Dramatic Increase in Problem Gambling over the Past Decade

The number of the problem gamblers in Italy has increased by four times in the past decade, soaring from around 100,000 in 2007 to an estimated 400,000 in 2017, a new study shows. More Italians are gambling today than several years ago, researchers say, pointing out that at the same time, there has been a significant decline in teen gamblers.

The study on gambling prevalence and gambling habits in Italy was released Thursday by the Pisa branch of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) or the National Research Council. It shows a dramatic increase in those who participate in any form of gambling or betting over the last few years. According to the results, more than 17 million Italians, or roughly 42.8 per cent of the country’s population, gambled at least once in 2017. In comparison, only 10 million people (27.9%) gambled in 2014. Interestingly, around 1.4 million gamblers placed their bets or played casino games online last year.

One of the positive tendencies the report has spotted is the decline in younger people who gamble. In 2017, around 1 million Italians aged 15-19 gambled at least once compared to 1.4 million in 2009. Nearly 11 per cent of students in this age group say they did not know that gambling is illegal for those under 18. In addition, 580,000 minors gambled at least once in 2017, according to the research which looked at the gambling habits of Italians who buy lottery tickets, bet on sports events, and play card games and slot machines.

The results of the study, conducted by scientists at CNR’s Institute of Clinical Psychology, also indicate that the prevalence of problem gambling is gradually rising over the years. In 2007, there were around 100,000 pathological gamblers across Italy, but their number increased to 230,000 in 2010. The people with some sort of gambling addiction were approximately 260,000 in 2013 and in 2017, they rose to around 400,000. It should be noted that these figures are estimations based on representative samples analyzed in the research.

Another important aspect of the study is that it refers to people with gambling issues as problem gamblers and not gambling addicts, as the latter would indicate a psychiatric evaluation has been made, CNR researcher and epidemiology expert Sabrina Molinaro explains. She adds that now, there are also fewer problem gamblers aged 15 to 19 – from over 8 per cent in 2009, they were down to 7 per cent in 2017. The declines are particularly evident in Central and Northern Italy, while there are increases in Sicily, Basilicata, Calabria, Molise and Abruzzo, Molinaro points out.

Can You Get Rich by Playing Games?

One of the most interesting findings of the study indicates that a good amount of people actually believe that they can get rich by gambling. According to 39.1 per cent of the respondents, you can win big and become rich if you have the skills needed for the particular type of game. Around 48.3 per cent of problem gamblers share that belief. When it comes to playing poker and other card games, 61.7 per cent of the people think that players’ skills determine whether you will win. And 36 per cent of respondents say skills are important in sports betting, as well. A little over half of Italians aged 15-19 believe they would become rich from gambling if they have the skills.

When asked whether they won, lost or came out even, 40.1 per cent admit they lost, 48 per cent say they broke even, and only 11.9 per cent of the respondents say they won. The most popular games according to the study are the so-called scratch and win games, played by approximately 74 per cent of Italians. They are followed by Lotto and Super Enalotto (50.5%) and sports bets, which experienced a significant rise in popularity from 18.3 per cent in 2010 to 28 per cent in 2017.

The majority of gamblers in Italy (63.7%) spend less than €10 a month on gambling, as do nearly 50 per cent of problem gamblers. When looking at those with some pathological issues related to gambling, 37 per cent spend between €50 and €200 a month, while another 14.9 per cent spend more than €200 each month fueling their addiction or problematic behaviour.