Gambling on the box

March 23, 2009

gambling-on-the-box

There is a worrying trend spreading virus-like on Spanish television. Having no Sky or similar facility, I don’t know if the trend is spreading abroad, or even if it has come to this country from elsewhere.

As though there weren’t enough problem gambling in Spain, now we have every television channel and lots of radio stations offering quick riches at all times of the day and night – there are even whole programmes dedicated to it, mostly in the small hours but not all. Send a text message to such-and-such a number and you can win anything from €1000 to €500,000 – or x amount per month for the rest of your life, or for a year. Easy, isn’t it?

The catch words are ‘you can win’. No guarantee that you will. All you’re doing is taking part in a lottery. Each message will cost you well over €1, depending, I suppose, on the prize money.

That is as much gambling as poker, El Gordo or a slot machine. Unlike these, though, there is no legislation in Spain to control it. According to El País, the TV stations’ advertising income has plummeted and they are taking advantage of a legal vacuum.

The organization that is supposed to control gambling in Spain is the Loterías y Apuestas del Estado (LAE) but it classifies text message gaming as a competition and thus allows it without regulation.

There is a serious gambling addiction problem in Spain – not surprising when every bar has at least one slot machine and there are so many ‘official’ ways to do gamble: lottery, pools, specials, etc. And then there is online gambling, which, according to JARCA, a self-help problem gamblers organization very active in the Campo de Gibraltar, is creating more addicts than ever. Add these to the desperation of unemployment and you have a bomb. And we won’t even go into Bwin sponsoring Real Madrid on their shirts.

Gibraltar, too, is a major international online gambling centre, confirmed by a quick look through Google, where you will find all sorts of juicy get rich quick schemes. Most of them, though, have a link to some sort of self help organization such as Gamblers Anonymous, that they refer to in a miniscule section variously titled as ‘Social Responsibility’.

Compulsive gambling is an illness and recognized as such by the World Health Organization. It is the same as, say, alcoholism or drug addiction and has much the same results.

(c) Alexander Bewick 2009

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