100,000 people addicted to scratch cards in Portugal
A new study has found that around 100,000 people are addicted to scratch cards in Portugal, 30,000 of which are said to have a pathological gambling disorder.
As Lusa news agency points out, this is approximately 1% of the country’s population.
Women, people on low incomes and people with a low level of education are the ones who bet the most on scratch cards, the study found.
Entitled ‘Quem paga a raspadinha?’ (Who pays for the scratch cards?), the study was carried out by the University of Minho for the Economic and Social Council (CES) and was presented on Tuesday in Lisbon.
According to the study, which is based on 2,554 interviews, “frequent consumption of scratch cards is more common among people on low incomes,” specifying that it is three times more common among people with incomes between €400 and €664 per month than among people with incomes of over €1,500 per month.
Gambling is also more common among people with primary and secondary education (5.8 and 3.9 times more likely than people with a master’s or doctorate degree).
Another conclusion of the national study is that it is women (53.15%) who have the most problems with gambling, compared to 46.85% of men.
Of the 221 respondents who said they gamble regularly, 112 (51%) said they gamble weekly, 91 (41%) monthly and 18 (8%) daily.
The research concludes that 3.09% of adults are at risk of developing gambling problems and estimated that these problems could affect 1.21% of the adult population.
Contacted by the Lusa news agency, Pedro Hubert, a psychologist and coordinator of the Gambling Support Institute, acknowledged that the institute receives people with problems related to scratch cards.
“The only reason we don’t receive more is because, as a private institute, people often don’t have the financial capacity to pay for treatment,” he said.
The addictions counsellor in the field of pathological gambling said that, as the study says, the people who buy the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa’s instant lottery (scratch cards) the most “are people with fewer economic resources, often older, less educated and often with associated anxiety or depression problems”.
The Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML) is a charitable organisation in Portugal that also runs the national lottery and off-course sports betting.
Observing that the scratch card “is very much implemented from a cultural, social point of view”, with people playing and giving away scratch cards, there should be more information to prevent addictive behaviour.
Prevention, he argued, “essentially involves a lot of information, which should be broadcast not only in gambling centres but also on television”, with the message that “gambling is something for recreation and not for investment: It’s for people to have fun, it’s not to help increase their pension or to pay the rent or to have some more money”.
Many people gamble because they think they’ll win money, and when they lose what they’ve won, they’ll want to get their money back, the expert explained.
Pedro Hubert warned that there are several factors that increase the risk potential of scratch cards, particularly for those with a certain predisposition to addiction. There is the fact that you can buy and bet “many times in a minute” on scratch cards, along with their accessibility, availability, low price and high prizes.
The risk is also greater for “people who have more difficulties or who are less aware of what statistics are and that gambling is more in favour of the house than the people who buy”.
In order to prevent gambling addiction problems, the expert said that there should be information in the shops about the symptoms of those who have problems with gambling and that helplines should be publicised.
According to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML) 2020 report and accounts, the latest to be have been released, the scratch card is the “queen” of social games, having awarded around 2.8 million weekly prizes, which translates into more than €17.2 million.
According to SCML’s 2022 Plan and Budget, scratch cards accounted for real sales of €1.44 billion in 2020, around half of the total sales of social games, which include totoloto, totobola, euromillions, lotteries and other games.
Government to “evaluate study” before taking measures
Portugal’s minister of labour, Ana Mendes Godinho, said on Tuesday that the government would evaluate the study on the addiction to ‘scratch cards’ and then take measures.
“We need to have the study evaluated in order to implement the measures. But, I reiterate, it is extremely important to have the study in order to take action,” she said at the end of a meeting in Lisbon between the government and the Portuguese Business Confederation (CIP).
However, the minister did not indicate what the government was considering doing.
The head of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML) also expressed on Tuesday her willingness to find answers to the problem of scratch card addiction, recognising that it is a problem that affects the people most supported by the institution and is a cause for concern.
Stressing that SCML has not yet reflected on the results of the study, Ana Jorge assured that the institution would analyse them and “talk to those who understand the subject, the people who deal with addictions”.
She also guaranteed that the SCML is “obviously available to find and respond to some of the problems that have been pointed out”.