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Gambling addiction on rise

 
photo:  (radio.cz)
 

Gambling on slot machines and other coin or bill operated terminals has long been a problem in the Czech Republic. According to new data, the number of pathologically-addicted gamblers in the country tops 100,000 – an increase by one-third over the last five years. Although many municipalities are now fighting for gambling venues in their vicinity to shut down, there is a new problem: quiz machines.

 

There is no shortage of gambling addicts who bet and lost, so to speak, the family farm, finding themselves hundreds of thousands of crowns in debt. One man, receiving treatment at a Czech psychiatric facility, told broadcaster Czech TV that he had gambled away whole paychecks before finding help. Receiving treatment for many is a last hope to break a continuing cycle of brief reward followed by depression from the inevitable downward spiral. Last year, roughly two thousand people in the Czech Republic sought out (or were ordered to seek) psychiatric help. Dr Hynek Šála is a psychologist at a psychiatric facility in Kosmonosy; he told Czech TV treatment lasts several months:

“The aim is to get gamblers away from their regular surroundings. To get them away from venues where they gambled and to break the stereotype.”

Benefitting from broader powers, many municipalities and towns have also sought to limit the number of gambling venues or to ban them outright. But what is banned in one town, is allowed in the next: some areas do not view gambling as a serious problem, compared to those which see gambling addiction as a risk which affects not just the player but those closest to them. Ondřej Čálovka, an addiction expert from the NGO Riaps Trutnov, says that addiction goes beyond troubled individuals themselves:

“According to studies, gambling addiction affects or worsens life for 10 - 15 people close to them, from members of their family, to the persons lending money, work colleagues and so on.”

Although many towns want to restrict gambling venues, a new machine has caught on which is causing some municipalities additional headaches: so-called ‘kvizomats’ - quiz or trivia machines – which detractors argue are classic gambling machines only thinly-disguised. One’s initial credit goes up and down based on right or wrong answers but winning is still apparently based on luck. Their introduction has seen a quick response from some towns, where officials argue they break the law on lotteries, prompting a launching of legal proceedings. The company providing the terminals has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that while the quiz machines resembled classic gambling or fruit machines, the resemblance was only skin-deep.

 
 
Author: Český rozhlas Radio Praha
 
Added: 07.10.2014
 
 
 

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