Wlodzimierz Redzioch conducts an interview with Nello Scavo - who has been dealing with the issue for years, and in Poland known as the author of the book ‘A list of Bergoglio. Saved by Francis at the times of dictatorship’ about dramatic results of gambling games

WLODZIMIERZ REDZIOCH: – Not everyone is aware of the fact that in many countries a dramatic social phenomenon and a serious health problem are hidden in the term ‘gambling games’, and, first of all, an enormous business which is partly controlled by the organized criminal groups. How big is this phenomenon in Italy?

NELLO SCAVO: – In our country the annual income of the business of gambling games exceeds 85 milliard euro. It is estimated that over half of citizens play at least once a year, but these are at least 3 million pathological gamblers, that is, gambling addicts who need suitable treatments. This situation became the reason for which the health ministry introduced the therapy of treatment from gambling addiction, that is, uncontrolled need of practicing gambling.

– How did it happen that the democratic governments changed many countries into shebang? Who really earns on the quickly spreading gambling?

– In the beginning it was thought that the country can earn on popularizing gambling games. However, it turns out that a few millions euro get into the budget – only a few companies earn big money, mainly the foreign ones, and the negative social costs of gambling fall onto the shoulders of the country.

– When gambling games were legalized, it was said that in this way the phenomenon of illegal gambling would be overcome. However, it did not happen so. What is the business connected with gambling for the Italian organized criminal groups?

– The legal system of gambling games is infiltrated by mafias which managed to take over the sector of services such as hiring equipment for games and its repair. Besides that, they open legal houses for games, in which automats are not connected with the central system of the state control. In this way the authorities do not control them, and all money get to the pockets of mafia members.

– On the one hand many medias and some politicians ostensibly praise the advantages from the legalized gambling, but on the other hand – they conceal enormous social harm caused by the addiction to gambling. What should we know about social consequences of gambling on the example of Italy?

– For over a year I have been carrying out journalistic investigation which suggests that some political groups are financed by companies functioning in the sector of gambling games. Certainly, it is all about not introducing law restricting gambling games. But, it is known how much harm is caused by addiction to gambling. If an entrepreneur, worker, father waste money in automats or while playing video poker, they suffer because of it, and finally, then whole social and economic system.

– Can you tell us a story or illustrate any tragedies resulting from addiction to gambling?

– I have met a few entrepreneurs who had to resort to usurers or mafia bankers in order to pay off debts caused by gambling, which caused closing down companies, and employees got unemployed. Sometimes enterprises are used to wash dirty money of mafias. But there are also cases of murders in families – pathological gamblers killed their relatives because the latter ones reprimanded them for destroying their own life and life of their families because of gambling.

– How to limit the phenomenon of spreading gambling?

– First of all, we must not open new game halls, and, especially we must prevent them from appearing near such places as schools, hospitals, churches, youth centres. But, unfortunately, it is not enough.

– Recently a new big danger has appeared – online gambling games. The thing is that it is more worrying as big financiers are interested in this business. What do you think about it?

– In fact it is a more insidious danger – in Italy some halls of games are closed because gambling is getting into internet. In this way, one can play on a mobile or a computer during a day and at night. Using nets and smart-phones causes a situation in which there are going to be less game halls and more players. Besides that, companies controlling gambling will earn much more because the whole structure of gambling will disappear: producers and distributors of automats, bars where these machines were installed for fees. Besides that, we are dealing with a phenomenon of globalizing gambling – in Italy about 70 per cent of the market is controlled by companies related to the foreign capital. Among them there is, for example, the English pension fund, which decided that the best way of investing savings by pensioners is gambling. Now these companies made countries of the Eastern Europe their purpose. You must know about it!

– In Italy there are about 400 thousand legal automats. In the future the country wants to replace them with the new ones, in order to control them better. Is there a risk that these game automats – through organized criminal groups and corrupt politicians – will get abroad, including Poland?

– I think it is not only a risk but certainty. There are well-established relations between the Italian mafia and criminal groups in Eastern Europe. These alliances will inevitably consolidate together thanks to easy way of earning money gained from automats because these are real machines taking away money from million people.

– What does the Italian Church do – which is very engaged in solving the problem of addiction to gambling – in order to help the victims of gambling games?

– From the initiative of the Italian Episcopal Conference, the national Council for Fight with usury was established, which elaborated preventive programs and policy of unmasking abuses. But its activity meets with a definite reaction of these interests groups which change our cities into a shebang. We also need suitable education so that people would have a good attitude to money and work and understand that not everything can be measured by wealth. Today, in the situation of deep economic crisis, many people give their last money in despair for lotteries, games and bets, hoping to win a lot, but – as it is said in casinos – ‘bank will always win’.


"Niedziela" 29/2014

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: