Whenever I go to the bar near my house, I always see somebody in front of automats. In the early morning an elderly woman appears who comes here in slippers, later I see a genteel lady in the middle age who spends hours at the automat. It became tradition for many clients, that after drinking coffee they throw a few coins into a machine in order to play ‘for fun’. Recently, one can often see foreigners at automats, especially the Asians who are very fond of gambling games: Sinhalese street sellers whom there are a lot in the streets of Rome, and Filipinos, especially on days-off. What I observe in ‘my’ bar, can be observed in bars and halls of games in whole Italy, because in this country about 400 thousand legal automats were installed (there are also about 200 thousand illegal ones)!
Not long time ago were gambling games legal only in a few casinos or in special places, such as Las Vegas city, because the government was aware how tragic the consequences of the addiction to gambling can be for societies. Today short-sightedness of politicians, pressures of the powerful lobby of the industry of gambling and organized crime caused the situation that Italy – and also other countries in various extent – were changed in a big casino, into a shebang, operating in the majesty of law. In Italy the income of the country from taxing of gambling games is 8 milliard euro every year, whereas social costs of gambling (for example treating people pathologically addicted to games) are estimated as 10 milliard euro, which means that in the final settlement the country loses in this business. In fact, criminal organizations earn the most in the gambling business.
It is estimated that the illegal gambling in Italy is controlled by over 40 criminal clans whose income reach 30 milliard euro every year. Besides the country, mainly players lose in this gigantic market of gambling – it is estimated that there are about 3 million permanent players (among whom 800 thousand are pathological people addicted to games). And, in this way, the victims of gambling are even poor retired people and pensioners who save on food and medicaments in order to play. Another category are young unemployed people who want to win money on gambling games). Also people of the so-called middle class play, who have suffered from the economic crisis and cannot agree with the fact of lowering standard of their life. A big group are entrepreneurs with financial problems. Everyone deceive themselves that a big win will solve their problems, although, in fact, gambling games only multiply financial, social and family problems, pushing hundred thousands of people into a dead end of addiction to gambling.
Considering catastrophic social and economic results of gambling, the Italian Church got engaged in the fight against spreading halls of gambling games, in help to victims of gambling, who often get into the hands of usurers, in treating pathological people addicted to gambling. The leading role in unmasking dangers connected with the business of gambling games is played by the journal of the Italian Episcopate ‘L’Avvenire’. I conducted an interview with one of its journalists, Nello Scavo, who has been dealing with this issue for years. In Poland Scavo is known as an author of the book ‘A list of Bergoglio. Saved by Francis at the times of dictatorship’.