OPINION

Betting becomes a social problem

The rapid increase in state-run games of chance in recent years is turning into a serious social disease, given a new impetus recently with the introduction of betting games such as «Pame Stoichima.» According to a press survey, in 2004 alone Greeks spent some 1.6 billion euros on these games – compared to 1.4 billion in Britain, where betting is a tradition that goes back decades – and 1.2 billion in Italy. Another major concern is the fact that more and more young people are playing Stoichima, since they are in a position to access the latest games on the Internet. There are several reasons why Greek society, particularly the less well-off groups who form the bulk of the players, are turning to Stoichima. Hopes of easy gains and the excitement of waiting for the winning number are just part of the story. The persistent, aggressive advertising campaign and a lack of education are another. It all points in one direction, however, and that is to an even greater drain on the usually paltry incomes of the vast majority of the players. So far the state has not only accepted the situation but has actively encouraged it, hoping of course for guaranteed revenue that can go toward funding other, more pressing needs. After all, it is generally accepted that each person is responsible for choosing how to spend his or her money. This concept needs to be reviewed. The rapid escalation of state-run gambling at a time when the poorer strata of society are under such great pressure because of overindebtedness and the austerity policies imposed by the deficits of previous years should be giving the politicians cause for concern. Stopping the advertisements for Stoichima and improving education are just some of the ways to deal with a phenomenon that could develop into a major social problem.