Spain now has the unenviable distinction of being home to the highest number of teen gambling addicts in Europe. According to Madrid’s Association of Psychologists and Spain’s Federation of Rehabilitated Gamblers, one in five young Spaniards between the ages of 14 to 21 are battling with gambling addiction issues. This figure represents a higher rate than any other European country including the United Kingdom.
Gambling Proliferation Partly Blamed
The findings point to an alarming increase in the number of gambling houses operating in the country. When it comes to the city of Madrid, betting houses have continued to proliferate, with the Spanish capital recording a 300 percent growth since 2013. Madrid’s working class areas of Cuidad Lineal, Usera, and Vallecas are home to a total of 40 gambling venues which have been operating since 2016. Teens are granted easy access to these establishments leading to more and more youngsters becoming gambling addicts.
In light of the latest findings, betting houses could soon be prohibited from setting up shops near schools and other educational centers. The regional government in Madrid is considering putting in place a 100-meter safety perimeter policy to address the problem.
Online Gambling Concerns
However, the safety perimeter measure won’t be enough to prevent teens from engaging in gambling activities as they can still do so through the internet. Experts say online gambling platforms provide easier access to sports betting and online poker, which can still contribute to the widespread gambling epidemic among young Spaniards.
A Madrid police officer named Tomas Calamardo says that this age group usually gets hooked to online gambling, and the worst thing that could happen to Spanish teens while doing this activity is to win at online gambling.
Calamardo, who conducts workshops catering to Spanish teens addicted to gambling, said authorities should now do something to deal with this problem, before it’s too late. Calamardo is particularly concerned with the high number of sports betting ads flooding the TV screens, potentially luring teens to gamble.  These ads, which usually feature famous sports personalities and celebrity idols, are shown during all times of day, including the morning children’s slot. Calamardo said this is having a huge impact on a teen’s decision to gamble.
Blanket Ban on Gambling Ads
This news that Spain is now home to the highest number of teen gambling addicts in Europe comes at a time when the government is contemplating a total ban on gambling adverts. Under the plan, gambling operators would be prohibited from showing ads on TV, radio and online during periods when minors might be exposed to such ads.
The government is also considering banning the use of celebrities in promoting gambling brands during sporting activities and events. Spain’s Ombudsman said gambling operators would risk losing their license if they fail to adhere to the restrictions.
EU Dealing With Gambling Addiction Problem
Gambling addiction has become a national crisis in Europe, with the UK also recording high gambling addiction rates. UK is home to an estimated 430,000 problem gamblers, and the figure keeps on growing, according to a report from the British Medical Journal published in May.  The prevalence of online gambling has also spiked in the country with 33 million active online gambling accounts now existing.
The UK gambling commission and the government have taken stringent steps in the last 2 years to address the growing concern of problem gambling. Some of the steps include reducing the minimum bet of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2, proposing a credit card ban at online gambling sites and pushing iGaming operators to donate more to funding problem gambling initiatives.
Other suggested measures include restricting the scale of marketing activity in the gambling industry. It has emerged that operators have been spending more on their marketing campaigns than ever before, with the bulk of the ads bombarding social media and the internet — the platform mostly used and visited by the youth.
A new gambling legislation is also being pushed, which could introduce mandatory affordability checks as well as the credit card ban at iGaming sites. The UK government said it is considering the measure.
Problem gambling has become a social justice issue, not just a health issue, as many innocent people are being dragged into the picture due to gambling-related harm.

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