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Slot machines are a common feature in gambling establishments, Source: Riga Municipality

Riga to take a stance against gambling

Riga to take a stance against gambling

It is not such an easy decision when considering economic benefits against social harm

After hearing a report on the social consequences of gambling in the city of Riga (13 October), its Vice Mayor Linda Ozola guaranteed that the city will take action on curtailing the spread of the gambling industry sector.

She attended a presentation by the Welfare Department of the City Council, which pointed out, among other things, that a survey has shown that 77% of respondents believe that there are too many gambling places in Latvia and 59% of them support a general ban on gambling.

Gambling, however, also fills the city’s coffers

One of the biggest contradictions that arise when it comes to the consequences of gambling addiction and its reduction is the contradiction between the contribution of gambling to the economy and the harm it causes to society. According to Juris Osis, Head of the Social Work Division of the Welfare Department, the economic contribution is considered to be greater than the loss to society. That would explain why cities might be reluctant to outright ban the sector.

The study, conducted by his division, revealed that the profile of a problem gambler in Riga is a Latvian man, aged 15 to 24 or aged 35 to 44, who has a basic or lower education. This person is often married but separated or is unmarried and living with his parents/grandparents. In terms of employment, there are two categories: a dependent player is either a regular or skilled worker or an entrepreneur. It is worrying that a large proportion of these gamblers start gambling before the age of 18.

The majority (79%) of respondents agree that a law should be passed that allows gambling or participation in lotteries only from the age of 21, thus protecting young people who are at risk.

According to Osis, so far there have been no gambling addicts in the practice of social workers who would acknowledge their problem and voluntarily agree to receive help. In many cases, these people consider gambling to be a job and a way of making money for the family. Addiction Prevention Specialists (APS) are seen as an important resource in combating this type of addiction. 

Committee deputies agreed to inform the City Development Department about the information included in the study so that it would be taken into account when developing Riga’s spatial planning documents. They will also inform about the consequences and the drawbacks that gambling prevention can cause on the local government budget.

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