Jack Stanton is psychologist of behavioural problems and addictions. He is a part of a non-governmental organization that helps people with such problems and deals mainly with individuals addicted to gambling. He talked to GRReporter about the dangers hidden in the idea of George Papandreu’s government to grant 50 thousand new permissions for electronic slot machines. According to the published information the gambling machines are permitted to be installed at different public places and they will be unrestrictedly accessed.
In these crisis times the main issue is the survival of people. The middle class of Greece soon will lose its status and things will become dangerous. The governmental decision to place more than 50 thousand electronic gambling machines to be used by the general public will result in more serious social and public problems than we can imagine today. In fact, the government tries to tempt the people to spend the little money they have for gambling instead of investing them in something useful. In other words, if you take a child in a candy shop the child will eat as many candies as he or she can. The same is with gambling – if we place a machine on every corner, in every internet café or lotto station we will only encourage children to try their luck. Thus I will have much more work than I have today.
The economic crisis and the coming difficult years will only make ordinary people hope harder that they can solve their financial problems with the games of chance. This is very dangerous for the young people who can become addicted to gambling. If we speak about a 23 years old man gambling in casino we could say that he knows the danger of gambling and is able to judge when the game ends and when the danger begins. The state is obliged to determine strict and responsible legal frame that should be observed in order to protect the young generation, not to expose to the risks and temptation of easy wins.
Our center has surveyed small local lotto stations and found out that there a lot of children at the age of 13 or 14 coming in and out. They play different games of chance with the permission of their parents and this forms their habits for future addiction to gambling. So, I think it is irresponsible from the side of the government to place gambling machines on public places, which would bring half a milliard Euros into the treasury this year.
A possible solution in this situation is all these new machines that are expected to raise additional financial resources from taxes to be placed in the casinos all over the country. In this way gambling will not be widely spread, neither the dangers of increasing the gambling addiction and other behaviour problems. There is strict guard in the casinos that track the flow of people as well as their age. Inspecting officers from the relevant state services have constant control inside the casinos.
As a whole we can not forbid people to have fun, because it is fun we are talking about. It is different when we speak of teenagers. If you go to an internet café you will see children stuck to the computer, playing games for hours. The same will happen if we place gambling machines on public places with unrestricted access. This type of addiction is the reason for aggressive behaviour. When the problem gets more serious the children become liars – they lie to their parents about where they go, what they do, where they spend their money. They spend all the pin money on these games. I have to tell you that the screens of monitors, TVs and gambling machine have proven hypnotic effect.
Provided that the government is interested in making more money from gambling, it would be better to issues licenses for more casinos, not to spread gambling machines all over the country. Whatever the decision, but it must be responsible, because as we already know we cannot expect the owners of local lotto stations to be responsible. There is no way people who are now concerned about loosing their 13 and 14 salary to be responsible. Everyone will think to himself “What do I have to loose – this game costs only 1 Euro!” and this will cause chain reaction. This one Euro will become two, than five, than all my pin money for the day. This is a trap. The thing will certainly get out of control if there are no restrictions. The spreading of all these new slot machines the young generation will be badly misled. They will think to themselves that these games are legal, easy to access and to try your chance cost you 1 Euro. Perhaps not everyone but many of the people who try gambling in an early age end at the casino tables.
The gambling addiction is like any other addiction. There many cases when a teenager sees his or her classmate smoking marihuana and thinks “What’s the big deal, this is just marihuana” and that is how it all begins. What we don’t know is whether he will turn to harder drugs if he begins with soft ones. The same is with gambling – you begin with small amounts, but you like the thrill and you start spending more and more. This breaks peoples’ lives and the whole living of the addicted one connects with gambling. I know many people who have lost their houses, broken their families and their whole life because of gambling.
In 2005 the Greek edition Elevterotipia dedicated a whole article to the hot line of the center for mental care where Jack Stanton works on gambling addiction. It became clear from the article that the center is subsidized from the management of the very well-known in Attici region Lutraki Hotel-Casino. On this occasion, Yanis Kostopolis - professional in the field of defectology comments: “Finding help from a center financed by a casino is as if quitting smoking with the help of Marlboro’s specialist.”