Online betting, the invisible pandemic
They say that once inside, getting out seems impossible. Among other things, because you don’t want to abandon that state of constant emotionof adrenaline in each decision. To bet has that feeling, not knowing, being at the mercy of foreign situationsuncontrollable. chance is a game, but it can lead to an addiction. And the testimony of those who have passed through there coincides in describing a dead end a path that ends in loneliness, ruin and who knows, another addiction like alcohol, sex or drugs. addictive personality, it is called. The Government has now placed a limit on the promotion of gambling activities that operate outside of the lotteries that are already controlled by the State. Now these companies will be less visible, but will it be enough to prevent more and more young people from being exposed to a life on the wire? In Bellvitge, for example, the number of addicts to the game ‘online’ it has multiplied by four in just 10 years.
The theme of the game has many prisms and all of them come loaded with arguments. As a guild, it is a real economic giant. It moves each year about 41,000 million euros (five million more than the restoration) and generates 1,700 million in taxes for public coffers. According to the Codere Group, one of the leading companies, the sector also employs some 80,000 people. And all this has only grown: in the last 10 years, online betting has been added to the offer of casinos, bingos, lotteries, slot machines and gaming halls.
The decree approved at the beginning of November by the Government is tailor-made for this new category. In short, the Ministry of Consumption who drives Alberto Garzon limits the advertising to the time slot between one and five in the morning, vetoes the use of public figures (footballers, television presenters…) to promote these businesses, does not allow deposit bonuses of users (free entry money to start betting) and prohibits the sponsorship of sports competitions. This last point is perhaps the most publicized of all, since 25 clubs football, First and Second division, will be forced to find a new ‘sponsor’ from August next year. they requested three year moratorium, but they have only let them finish the current season. Failure to comply with any of these rules will be penalized with fines between 100,000 and one million euros.
Advertising (the one linked to the ‘online’ game has multiplied by three in seven years, from 68 million in 2013 to 181 in 2019) is the art of generate new needs. He plays with the aspirations, the desire, the illusion; but also with frustration, complexes, wanting and not being able to. There was a time when tobacco and alcohol ads were linked to the masculine. If you want to be a real man, he smokes this and drinks that. And a great guy appeared, in contemplative gesture, self-made. A figure. What Eric Lawsonthe actor marlboro cowboy who died in 2014 victim of chronic pulmonary obstruction. These two guilds, from the moment in which the Administration looked less at the box and a little more at health, have already been very limited. The same was not the case with gambling and lotteries, where, according to scholars, a certain frivolity still abounds. “Are you worried about social distance? Try the social climb,’ read one La Grossa advertising, this past August. She was promptly removed after a tsunami of outrage followed by a barrage of public apologies. But there was the message: playing makes you a different person. Unfortunately, not the one you would want.
Outside of this regulation, public lotteries and ONCE lotteries have been left out, which have special protection thanks to the 2011 gambling law. That is something that Juan Lamas does not understand. He is the technical director of the Spanish Federation of Rehabilitated Gamblers (FEJAR) and he is one of those who has never been moved by the syrupy announcements of the Christmas raffle. “The decree law it’s a step forward, but it makes me very angry to see how at ten at night, as if it were more news of general interest, on television they inform us about the lucky numbers of the day& rdquor;. In memory, the program Telecouponwhich turned the draw for the blind into a daily television event at the hands of the odd Carmen Sevilla.
Apart from denouncing the frivolization of an activity that can degenerate into gambling, Lamas regrets that the Government does not make more efforts in terms of “prevention and information to affected people” and that the regulation of face-to-face gambling halls is different for each autonomy. Advertising, he maintains, “is a culture broth” which later translates into businesses linked to gambling, especially in the most vulnerable areas of cities, which generates worrying alterations of the “leisure at certain ages”. Returning to the money generated by the sector, Lamas regrets that the game (in Spain there are 1.4 million active ‘online’ players) has always been seen “as the goose that lays the golden eggs and not as a public health problem& rdquor; . Is it really so?
Susana Jimenez is the boss of the Pathological Gambling Unit of the Bellvitge Hospital and knows the effects of the game well. Since 2005, his team has treated about 350 new patients each year. He points out that in 2010 there was a considerable increase (100 more), attributable to the economic crisis, and that in recent years they have detected a clear profile change. If a decade ago ‘online’ bets accounted for 6.9% of inquiries, now they are 26%. Visits by people under 25 years of age have also increased (27% of ‘online’ players are between 18 and 25 years old, a percentage that has grown by 13% in two years, and 83% are under 45). They were 6.8% of the total in 2005 and now they are already 18%.
This specialist is not only in against gambling advertising. He considers, in fact, that he should dedicate himself to “prevention campaigns” and not to the promotion of the ‘online’ game. His experience, however, tells him that ads are one more risk factor; a catalyst. Because there are others, such as the social or family environment, which can degenerate into “impulsiveness, the search for sensations or the difficulty to handle situations“. In the case of women, whose cases usually occur after the age of 35, Jiménez defines, “the need to combat loneliness and flee from problems”. And what better than taking refuge in parallel worlds: “Advertising facilitates the appearance of irrational beliefs and magical thoughts that will make you think that you can have a life of luxury and stop working. And it is not like that”.