Spaniards aged 14 to 21 are more addicted to sports betting and other forms of gambling than any of their European counterparts.
These are the findings of Spain’s Federation of Rehabilitated Gamblers and Madrid’s Association of Psychologists, both of whom are calling for stricter regulations for advertisers and betting houses to quash the trend.
In Madrid alone, the number of betting houses has increased an alarming 300 percent since 2013. A total of 40 gambling houses have been opened in the capital’s working class neighbourhoods of Usera, Ciudad Lineal and Vallecas alone since 2016.
Madrid’s regional government partly blames the worrying growth of gambling addiction among teens on this proliferation, leading them to consider a measure which would ban betting houses from setting up shop within a 100 metre radius of schools and other educational centres.
“You just go in, sit down, stick money in the money and that’s it,” one anonymous teen gambler told Spanish TV channel La Sexta.
But even if the safety perimeter regulation comes into force and ID checks become rigorous, experts believe young Spaniards will still find it easy to have access to gambling online.
The most common way in which this age group gets hooked is indeed on the internet, starting with sports betting and then progressing into online poker.
“The worst thing that can happen to a young person is that he wins,” Madrid policeman Tomás Calamardo, who holds workshops in the district of Coslada to get teens off the ‘gambling drug’ told El País.
“They’ve banned tobacco and alcohol ads from broadcasting on TV but when it comes to online betting it’s everywhere.
“They show these ads during the morning children’s slot and at all times of day.
“And if you have a famous person they admire like Cristiano Ronaldo on the ad the impact is even greater.”