More Czechs Suffer from Gambling Addiction in 2016, Report Finds

The number of people showing problem gambling behavior increased last year in the Czech Republic, according to a report compiled by the National Monitoring Center for Drugs and Addiction, with the the alarming figures being cited by local news outlet Radio Prague.

Researchers have found that around 120,000 Czech residents were addicted to one form of gambling or another in 2016. The reported figure represented a 16% increase from 2015. Those affected by problem gambling behavior numbered almost half a million people.

Such gambling customers accumulated an average of CZK1.2 million in gambling debts, scholars have found. What is more, the amount of CZK40 billion was spent on various gambling services during the twelve months ended December 31, 2016, according to the new report.

This has been the third time when the annual study has been conducted. It also included information about the most popular gambling activities among Czech customers. Gaming machines, the so-called scratchcards, lotteries, and online gambling ranked among the most profitable gambling businesses in the 2016 edition of the report.

Czech Republic’s New Gambling Laws and Their Effect on Problem Gambling

The Czech Republic enforced its new gambling law on January 1, 2017. The new regulatory framework replaced the country’s rather obsolete laws from the 1990s. Czech lawmakers aimed to create a framework that complied with EU directives for the distribution of gambling services as well as one that presented more clarity over what was legal in the country and what was not.

Among other things, the new regulatory regime authorized the licensed provision of online gambling services. Prior to that, international online gambling operators were operating in a gray environment.

Researchers from the National Monitoring Center for Drug and Addiction pointed out that while the new laws aimed at drawing clearer boundaries between the legal and illegal provision of gambling services in the country and at protecting and assisting vulnerable people and ones with problem gambling behavior, the legalization of online gambling could actually have a negative impact on problem gambling rates. Online gambling services are accessed more easily, hence the growing concerns about their effect on customers prone to addiction and ones that have already developed addiction to gambling.

Czech Republic’s Newly Opened Market Faces Lack of Interest

As mentioned above, the Czech Republic’s new iGaming regulations were enacted on January 1. From that point on, the unlicensed provision of online gaming services to local players was considered violation of the nation’s regulatory regime. Czech officials planned to prevent unlicensed operations with the help of local Internet service providers and through IP blocking.

However, regulators were heavily criticized for failing to implement the measure a month after the market’s regulation and thus made it possible for unlicensed operators to still service players from the country.

The Czech market faced another hurdle after its regulation – the relative lack of interest from big industry stakeholders. Several major operators, including William Hill and GVC, left in the days and months before and after the market was opened for international gambling businesses citing the tough regulatory environment they were presented with as the main reason for their decision. And they have not expressed interest in returning to the Czech Republic so far.

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