There is a sector of the Italian economy that seems not to know the word crisis and is growing at a dizzying pace from year to year; the 2022 data from the Blue Book of the Excise, Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM), released in recent weeks, once again certifies theexcellent state of health of the game in Italy. In order to understand the scope and extent of this phenomenon, some numbers are sufficient; in 2022 the overall gaming collection in the Bel Paese exceeded 136 billion euros, marking a notable +22.39% compared to 2021. Broadening the horizon of observation to the last 7 years, gaming collections went from around 96 .2 billion euros in 2016 to approximately 136.1 billion euros in 2022, recording a progressive growth, which only stopped in 2020 due to the pandemic. As early as 2021, collections started to pick up again, returning to levels higher than pre-Covid and confirming impetuous growth also in 2022.
This expansion of the sector implicitly constitutes a “good deal” also for it Italian state; just think that in 2022 the total revenue from gaming stood at around 11.2 billion euros, even achieving an increase of more than 30% compared to 2021. Also interesting is the analysis on the evolution of gaming methods and on the “change” in habits that has occurred in recent years; if in 2018 physical gaming was largely prevalent compared to remote gaming, in 2020, also due to the closure of gaming outlets in the area for almost 5 months due to the pandemic, remote gaming has overtaken physical gaming. And although physical gaming has started to grow significantly again thanks to the gradual reopening of gaming points, 2022 confirmed the prevalence of remote gaming (around 73.1 billion euros) compared to physical gaming (around 63 billion euros). ).
Dr. Pracucci, gaming in Italy is growing at an impressive rate. With a middle class in danger of extinction and more and more Italians in conditions of absolute poverty or forced to “tighten their belts”, how can we explain the boom in this sector?
Gambling is a market based on the illusion of easy winning. In times of economic crisis it has always been possible to notice an increase in money “invested” in gambling accompanied by a contraction in consumption. Gambling is considered a dissipation good as the outflow of money does not correspond to the purchase of a good or service. What can be “read” in the official data available to us is that Italians continue to bet more and more money on gambling, despite the fact that their economic availability has decreased. One of the elements that accompanies this “habit” is the loss of hope. When work, study, saving and sacrifices no longer seem sufficient to build one’s future on solid foundations, when one lives in a constant climate of personal, family and social uncertainty it is possible to imagine gambling as a desperate attempt to find a ” solution” to all these critical issues. If we then consider all the psychological aspects that are linked to a moment of economic crisis, for many people gambling can become a way to release anger, fear and frustration.
The data tells us that, also due to the effect of the pandemic, Italians today prefer remote gaming over physical gaming. Does the “overtaking” that has occurred in recent years indicate a structural change? Are there specific dynamics underlying the Game in the two channels?
Online gaming has specific characteristics: you can play 24 hours a day, you never touch the money and you are never under anyone else’s gaze. In this type of game there are no limitations of space or time. These elements ensure that the player’s flow is never interrupted, that flow that accompanies the player while he consumes his game. It is a feature that increases both its accessibility and its danger. They are attractive games that induce a state of alienation from reality that is not even interrupted by someone’s gaze, you are alone, very far away and enraptured by that experience. Never touching the money makes you lose even more the perception of the money played and consequently lost.
Online gaming is particularly attractive to those under 25 because it is accessible, speaks a digital language and is considered “virtual” like many of the realities sought after in this age group. It is an activity that is within reach, and generally socially accepted, often even by the family and peer group (e.g. schoolmates or friends). Gambling is perceived as an easy way to earn a lot of money as an alternative to work (e.g. professional poker player). An early encounter with these types of games (you bet money and skill doesn’t count) can have consequences both on an educational level – linked to the idea of accumulating money without any commitment – and on a cognitive development level. Research explains how gambling can modify the area of neuronal circuits, especially if exposure occurs before the age of 25. The reward, gratification and motivational states system is activated. The areas of pleasure that are not always under the control of consciousness are involved. If gaming behavior corresponds to a response linked to pleasure, adrenaline and the search for new emotions, the probability that that search becomes increasingly constant and intense increases.
* Article created with the support of Dr. Chiara Pracucci, psychologist and psychotherapist expert in pathological gambling.