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Survey shows rise in problem gambling under German State Treaty

3rd March 2014 6:30 am GMT

A survey conducted by Germany’s Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) and the country's Lottery and Toto Association (DLTB) has revealed a rise in pathological gambling behavior since the introduction of the country’s State Treaty on Gambling (Glücksspielstaatsvertrag).

While the findings of the survey have been used to call for stricter enforcement of the Treaty, they suggest that the legislation has actually exacerbated the problem of pathological gambling in its current form.

The research conducted in 2013 found that there had been “a significant statistical increase” in the number of players with irresponsible attitudes to gambling over the past year.

The research noted however that warnings in the media about the dangers of excessive gambling had increased over the year, leading to a significant increase in public awareness, with nearly a quarter of Germany’s population now aware of the existence of gambling advice centres.

In 2013 almost 68 per cent of people surveyed believed they were well-informed about the dangers of gambling.

The survey revealed that the number of people playing the market-leading 6 Aus 49 lotto game fell from 31.5 per cent of Germans between the ages of 16 and 65 in 2011 to 25.2 per cent last year. This has been accompanied by a drop in the number of younger players gambling the lottery, with the number of players down from 24.1 per cent in 2011 to 19.2 per cent in 2013.

However, slots have grown in popularity with 3.7 per cent of players participating on gaming machines compared to 2.2 per cent in 2007. The survey showed an especially rapid rise in the number of male slots players between the ages of 18 and 20. In 2007 5.8 per cent played slot machines, with the figure rising to 23.5 per cent in 2013.

The 18-20 age group was seen to have the largest instance of gambling-related problems, with 9.2 per cent of those surveyed said to be showing signs of pathological gambling behaviour.

The research also claims that sports bettors are 6.9 times more at risk of problem gambling behaviour, leading to calls for a ban on in-play betting.

Those betting via the state-owned sports betting entity ODS ODDSET Deutschland, however, were said to be comparatively low-risk players, with 24.1 per cent playing "in a healthy manner" and 2.8 per cent exhibiting signs of problem gambling. No figure for the number of problem gamblers betting in-play was published.

Lottery players were seen as at little risk of developing problem or pathological gambling habits, with just 3 per cent of German lottery customers displaying unhealthy behaviour, according to the research.

Those that access online casino games, including poker, were seen at higher risk, with 25.3 per cent of players said to be affected, followed by the category ‘other sports betting’ with 20.2 per cent of players classed as problem gamblers.

However the DLTB admitted that since many respondents participated in multiple forms of gambling, no connection could be established between these figures.

In total 0.8 per cent of players between the ages of 16 and 65 showed signs of problem gambling behaviour (438,000 people). This was up from 0.5 per cent in 2011 (265,000 people).

Almost one in six respondents spent up to €10 per month on gambling, with 14.8 per cent spending between €10 and €50 on a monthly basis. A further 4.6 per cent spent between €50 and €100 a month, with 4.2 per cent spending more than €100.

“Gaming behavior in Germany continues to give cause for concern,” BZgA head of department Peter Lang explained. “Men, immigrants and the unemployed continue to run an increased risk of problem gaming.

“The hope to strike gold can ultimately lead to uncontrolled gaming and underestimating the risks. Against this background, it is still necessary to continue the current prevention strategy,” Lang said.

In its evaluation of the results, the DLTB claimed that the research confirms the lotteries’ focus on developing a supply policy designed to ensure the highest possible level of player protection, with high standards to protect minors.

It also pointed out that of those surveyed, 88 per cent played on state-controlled gaming sites, arguing that this amounted to a show of public support for the country’s State Treaty on Gambling.

“People realise that gaming is not a normal commodity and cannot be left to the free powers of the market,” the DLTB explained. “The BZgA report underlines the positive effects of the Glücksspielstaatsvertrag [State Treaty], among other things by a reduction in the number of gaming clients.”

However the association also warned that the prevalence of online gaming and slot machines in commercial arcades showed the need for a ban on in-play betting and online casino games, as well as more effective regulation of land-based slot machines.

It noted that slot machines presented the biggest risk for creating addictive behaviour in players, particularly in the young male demographic, while problem gambling behaviour was also prevalent among online sports bettors and casino players.

As a result, it called on the Ministry of the Interior and Sport of Hesse (HMDIS) to urgently complete the licensing process and hand out the country’s 20 sports betting licences, noting that it has taken more than 18 months to complete.

It also reiterated its call for transactions to unlicensed gaming sites to be blocked in a move to address what the DLTB considers to be “shortcomings“ in the fight against illegal gambling.

“Illegal gaming operators continue to offer products via the internet from tax havens like Malta and Gibraltar, including the German LOTTO 6aus49 game,” the association explained. “This is a breach of the Glücksspielstaatsvertrag and drives clients towards unprotected gaming environments and tempts them to commit an offense. Politicians must use all legally available means to fight illegal gaming.”

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