Two in three people who gamble have addiction issues

A study reveals that the proportion of pathological gamblers aged 18 to 30 is 15 to 20 times larger than the general population.Choliz

Valencia University (UV) and the Valencia Youth Council presented earlier this week the ‘Addiction to gambling in the youth of the Valencia Community’ study. The document, coordinated by Basic Psychology professor Mariano Chóliz, analyses the incidence that gambling has on people under the age of 30, in order to find paths for prevention and also to be used as a “useful tool” to produce regulations that will be developed based on Spain’s recently approved law on this matter.

According to the entity, “it is concerning” that the profile of the gambler considered “of addiction of a high or extreme risk” is “directly linked to online gambling”, a format where young people have a greater presence.

“Two in three people under the age of 30 who were polled outside gambling houses have addiction issues”, explained Elena Mañas, head of the health department of the Valencia Youth Council. According to Mañas, “with the increase in gambling halls there has also been an increase in pathological gambling,” a fact which is “especially relevant” when looking at the motivations that these people have to start gambling and to continue to do so over time. Thus, she added that “young people start gambling for fun, a fact which is worsened if there are no viable leisure alternatives in their area or if, due to the COVID-19 crisis, these spaces have closed.”

As a second motivation, the study addresses the will of gamblers to “win money” and 25% of them do so to “alleviate their discontent”. “These figures can be linked, on one hand, to youth instability and poverty becoming chronic and, on the other, to the mental instability and anxiety that young people suffer due to an uncertain future,” explains Mañas.

Mariano Chóliz presented the differences among genders, as well as the particularities of being of legal age or underaged. According to the researcher, in online gambling, “46.6% of underaged men have played these games at some time”, whereas the participation of underaged women is “much lower”, around 13%. Furthermore, Chóliz also explained that “the current proportion of pathological gamblers aged between 18 and 30 is 15 to 20 times greater than the general population.”

From the Valencia Youth Council they also stress “the need to apply restrictive measures to the opening of these venues” and to not allow advertising to “call for individual responsibility”. Mañas added that “the message of gambling responsibly has proven to be ineffective and insufficient, and it also places individual responsibility at the core, ignoring the structural socio-economic causes that place people in situations of greater vulnerability regarding gambling.”

Chóliz coordinates the ‘Gambling and technological addictions’ Research Unit at the UV. According to the data of the report, the approximate expenditure on gambling in the Valencian Community in 2018 was of €1,500 million on SELAE games; €290 million on ONCE games; 2,725 million on traditional games (bingo, casinos, slot machines…); and €2,075 million on online games.