The Czech Republic national drug addiction coordinator Jindrich Voboril and Viktor Mravcik, addiction monitoring centre head, claimed Thursday that around 100,000 people in the Czech Republic are addicted to gambling, online games and betting and another 440,000 people have potential problems with these pastimes.
The country has a population of 10.5 million, the Prague Daily Monitor reported.
The two addiction experts are especially concerned at the rise in young problem gamblers, but the demographic most at risk is the 35-44 age group, the duo claim, although they did not elaborate on the source of their research or its methodology.
Last year a third of the population said they had tried gambling, wagering around 138.1 billion crowns on gambling, which raised operator revenues by 10 percent.
Gambling is particularly prevalent in areas along the border with Austria and Germany, where wagering can be up to three times bigger, Mravcik said.
“Approximately 20 percent of those gambling are problem gamblers,” Voboril said, noting that the Czech government is preparing an action plan against gambling for implementation over the next 2 years.
The prevention of problem gambling is at the heart of the plan, and envisages the introduction of an information web page with a guidance centre for gamblers and a crisis hotline, and regional gambling addiction centres.
Earlier this year Parliament approved a law aimed at restricting online gambling which should come into force next year. The national anti-drugs coordinator said a restrictive policy must go hand in hand with prevention and treatment.