While thanks to movies and pop culture, many may believe that the United States is the country with the most gamblers and the highest rate of problem gambling in the world, the reality is different. There are several regions where the gambling industry is extremely popular and well-developed, generating some of the highest revenues. When it comes to problem gambling, there are also a few countries where this is a serious issue that should be properly handled.
Some people find gambling an interesting way to kill some time and have fun. For others, however, gambling goes well beyond a leisure activity and it often leads to serious issues that may even require professional help.
While back in the days, gambling was only possible in person, in land-based casino facilities, nowadays, thanks to internet and smartphone innovations, anyone can easily gamble without even leaving their home. This has led to an increasing number of people with a gambling addiction. As this is an industry that worths hundreds of billions of dollars, it is only natural that it strives to attract even more players every day. This, however, also leads to even more problem gamblers across the world.
According to several research works, about 20 million people in the US alone have reported that their gambling is interfering with their daily life, which can be defined as compulsive gambling. This is the final stage before gambling addiction, which is a treatable but serious psychological issue. Many underestimate the seriousness of problem gambling, with research showing that more than 80% of individuals who suffer from a gambling addiction do not seek any help or treat their problem. Meanwhile, about 70% of the people who try some type of treatment end up returning to their problematic gambling behavior.
Problem gambling is a serious issue that often also leads, or is somehow related, to other mental health issues, alcohol or drug addiction, nicotine dependency, and other serious conditions. The effects of problem gambling also include huge losses, major depressive disorders that can also be passed down to the next generation, a higher rate of domestic abuse, and various other serious issues. This is why countries all over the world are trying to regulate the gambling industry and bring down the gambling prevalence rates.
Risk Factors That May Lead to Problem Gambling
Similar to other addictions, problem gambling is also related to risk factors such as mental issues like depression, or anxiety, disruptive home environment, lack of support by peers or the community. Based on research by the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, about 96.3% of pathological gamblers also suffer from one or more additional mental disorders.
One of the most serious issues that are common in different places around the world is underage gambling. According to studies, more than half the number of secondary school students in the US have participated in some form of real-money gambling in 2019.
Underage gambling is also closely linked to illegal gambling as individuals under the legal age of gambling can place bets only at websites that are not properly regulated. Not only do black-market operators tolerate such activities but they often use tactics to lure young adults into illegal wagering, opening the gateway to gambling addiction at an early age.
With most of the younger generation actively using smartphones, exposure to illegal gambling is even easier. This is why many jurisdictions are searching for effective methods to combat underage gambling and impose rigorous identity checks to prevent any gambling risks for younger people.
In most countries, the legal gambling age is set at 18, which is also the age for most adult activities. It is believed that this is the age at which individuals are capable of deciding whether they should smoke, drink, vote, gamble, etc. This is also the legal gambling age recommended by the World Lottery Association, which also believes that raising the age limit higher will only worsen the underage gambling issue. A gambling age limit higher than 18 will only give illegal operators more advantage in luring younger individuals into illegal gambling activities.
Trends in Gambling
There are certain trends that are easily noticeable in gambling all over the world. Certain age groups, genders, and social backgrounds are some of the factors that have an impact on the global gambling industry and can also be seen as preconditions for gambling addiction.
Problem Gambling in Different Regions
Problem gambling is a global issue with a negative impact on individuals all over the world. You may think that the Sin City casinos in the state of Nevada place the USA in the top position of countries with the highest problem gambling rates. Despite the reputation of Las Vegas, however, there are other countries that have higher gambling prevalence rates. Many of these countries are constantly battling illegal gambling and work towards ensuring a safer environment for people with gambling issues.
Amount Spent on Gambling
Often some of the countries with the highest problem gambling rates also rank among the top countries that spend the most on gambling. While the amount that gamblers spend is not always a fair indication of the gambling addiction prevalence rate in each country, some researchers see the link between spending huge amounts on wagers and problem gambling.
Even though the number of casinos in Macau is far behind the casinos that operate in Las Vegas, the gambling revenue of Macau is much higher than the one of Sin City. In 2019, the gambling industry in Macau generated an additional $29 billion, while Las Vegas’ contribution was only $6.6 billion.
When we take a look at the overall amount that is spent on gambling in a single year, we will notice that China takes the lead with $36.5 billion. The country that follows is the USA, with yearly spending of $35.5 billion, while the amount that gamblers spend in Japan in one year amounts to $18.6 billion.
Research shows that UK individuals with gambling problems tend to spend around £98 per day, while average players usually wager £14 on average in a single day. When reviewing the amount that the average American has spent on gambling in 2019, reports show that each gambler spends $261 on average on casino games and lottery in a single year. Meanwhile, the annual amount that is spent on gambling in Mainland China in 2019 amounts to US$145 billion.
If we compare the biggest loss per capita in 2016, we will notice that Australia is in first place with total losses per capita of $18.3 billion. However, the biggest total of losses in 2016 is reported in the United States with a loss of $116.9 billion.
Measures Taken to Prevent Gambling Addiction
Since gambling addiction is a serious issue in numerous countries, every jurisdiction is taking the matter of problem gambling seriously and is trying to properly regulate the sector and protect vulnerable individuals from gambling-related risks. Some of the measures that several countries have taken include raising the minimum age limit for gambling, ensuring proper regulation of the industry, providing help from organizations that prevent gambling-related issues among teens and high-risk individuals.
Recently the UK government announced that it will review the Gambling Act 2005, focusing on ensuring a safer gambling environment for underage individuals and high-risk people. One of the latest changes in the regulation was raising the minimum legal age to participate in the National Lottery from 16 to 18.
The problem gambling rate among teenagers in Finland also declined after the government changed the minimum gambling age limit from 15 to 18. The Finnish gambling operator Veikkaus has recently announced that it will decrease the number of its slot machines, hoping to bring the problem gambling rate among Finnish people even lower..
In Canada, the government is taking different measures to ensure that people can maintain healthy gambling and still bring down the risk of problem gambling among young adults. This is why as Christmas is approaching, the government issued a reminder that although lottery tickets can be a great present, they should not be among the gifts that underage people receive.
Different organizations in Macau also work to decrease the problem gambling rate in the region. One of the latest events was the Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) that promoted responsible gambling by organizing several activities with the theme of family. Workshops teaching about the proper relationship between parents and children, training programs, and other events promoting responsible gambling helped the Macau SAR Government’s mission of reaching more people.