Online gambling spreading like wildfire among Czech teenagers

Just a few years ago Prague had more casinos than Las Vegas. A restrictive law which came into force last year has seen their numbers dwindle, but it failed to address the problem of gambling, sending compulsive gamblers online and creating a new group of young addicts who have never set foot inside a gaming house. The head of the government’s National Anti-Drug Agency Jindřich Vobořil says the young generation has become the primary target of the gaming industry.

Jindřich Vobořil, photo: archive of Czech GovernmentJindřich Vobořil, photo: archive of Czech Government “Of course, teenagers are people who grew up with the new technologies and the whole industry is changing towards supporting this type of business. Today’s teenagers are the industry’s future clients. And if we look at surveys conducted among 17-year-olds then 30 percent of them say they have experience with gambling online.”

So what is being done in terms of prevention?

“Very little, at the moment. We have a new law which is to come into effect as of January next year that will restrict all types of online gambling, targeting both legal gambling and illegal providers, because we have at this moment lots of illegal providers online, providers who officially sponsor sports in the Czech Republic and have advertisements but they are illegal here. So there will be a massive change as of next year and also for the first time the government has allocated a budget for prevention and treatment. ”

So will the law bring about a significant improvement –or do you want to see more action?

“Legislation is only one leg as we say. It will not resolve everything, obviously. Legislation is a piece of paper, we must make sure it gets implemented. We know this only too well from experience with the law that bans selling alcohol to minors –it is forbidden, but it has always been a problem. So legislation is not everything. We need to have money for prevention and treatment and we want to follow the example of countries such as Portugal which allocate a percentage from the income of gambling industries to prevention and treatment.”

Photo: Raven3k / freeimagesPhoto: Raven3k / freeimages In this country there are some 100,000 compulsive gamblers, but only around 1,500 of them seek help – why is that?

“Because there were no services available for them. This is the first time that money has been allocated for this field, and we are planning to provide an accessible service, counselling in each of the country’s fourteen districts, seven centres have already been set up and the others are in the pipeline. I would also like to establish online counselling and a helpline should be put into operation in the very near future.”