Home » Nicolò Fagioli, the public account of gambling addiction is a half victory

Nicolò Fagioli, the public account of gambling addiction is a half victory

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Nicolò Fagioli, the public account of gambling addiction is a half victory

Numbers are synthetic data which alone cannot describe the dramatic nature of a phenomenon. But those on gambling in Italy trace a precise direction that explains where the country is going when we talk about gambling disorder. «According to the data provided in January 2024 by the Customs and Monopolies Agency in 2022», as underlined by the Notice Public Association, «Italy has set a new record with over 136 billion euros bet on the gaming table. An increase of 22.4% compared to the previous year, when Italians had gambled 111.7 billion euros. To give us an idea, it is as if every adult citizen had gambled an amount equal to 2,730 euros in the year 2022 alone. An expenditure that rose by almost 15 billion in 2023. The trend is that of an increase in collection after the decline caused by the closures imposed by the 2020 pandemic. However, in recent years the composition of collection has changed: if up to 2019 the collection on the physical network was the one that excelled, from 2020 to today the trend has reversed with the collection of remote gaming surpassing the physical one, reaching the peak of the incidence in the year 2021″.

«Gambling has unstoppable growth», says Dr. Paolo Jarre, former director of the “Pathology of Addiction” department of the ASL To3 Turin. Jarre is one of the leading Italian experts on issues related to pathological gambling, and it is he who is following Juventus midfielder Nicolò Fagioli, 23, in his recovery journey. In October 2023, the player ended the football season early after news of his involvement in a ring of illegal sports betting on matches organized by the FIGC, UEFA and FIFA, prohibited for professional footballers. Fagioli had already reported himself to the FIGC Federal Prosecutor’s Office since the previous August. He proved to be cooperative in the investigations and available to treat his gambling disorder. He thus avoids referral and obtains an agreement with the Federal Prosecutor’s Office: on 17 October the player receives a 12-month ban, of which seven are effective and five are commuted to other provisions, as well as a fine of 12,500 euros. The disqualification period will expire on May 19th.

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Can Jarre give us a snapshot of Italy today with regards to gambling addiction? How present is this phenomenon and how much have we pretended or still pretend not to see it?

Over the last twenty years, gambling has always been growing, there was a small contraction in 2020, but this did not influence the trend of the curve. I define this growth as unstoppable, just think that the sums gambled have exceeded those of the National Health Service.

Where does this addiction come from?

At the base there is certainly a personal vulnerability. But in at least three quarters of the players who then turn into pathological gamblers this personal vulnerability is not that significant, so it cannot be considered decisive. Pathological behavior therefore depends largely on supply pressure. Today in Italy there are 800 thousand pathological gamblers, 15 years ago there were 200 thousand. The 600,000 additional people who have become ill were not all born significantly “vulnerable.”

Can we make an identikit of the player?

Like all risky behaviors there is a prevalence of the male gender. But among the very young this prevalence is significantly lower. On the other hand, we know that some risky behaviors in girls are even more frequent than in their male peers, for example tobacco addiction or taking psychotropic drugs without a prescription. Another recurring factor is belonging to a medium-low socio-economic and cultural level. This factor is not so much determining in the onset of the pathology, but in determining the worse course and outcome of the addiction.

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The average age of pathological gamblers continues to decrease, can we identify the causes?

The causes are many. Among the risk factors are certainly improvements in technology and the fact that even elementary and middle school children can have “internet in their pockets”. Another risk factor is the ever-increasing overlap between the ways in which video games operate and gambling. Then by adding staying at home for long periods during the lockdown months you get an explosive mixture. Already at the age of 14, almost half of children declare having gambled for money at least once in the previous year (ESPAD 2023 Study), despite any type of gambling being prohibited for minors.

You are following the case of Nicolò Fagioli, Juventus midfielder. Here in the collective imagination the life of a footballer is a “life of success”. Can the fact that a public figure’s addiction has become known in some way help sufferers to come forward?

There are both positives and negatives to Fagioli’s story becoming public knowledge. A young, famous, rich and beautiful person who asks for help is in turn an incentive for all those players who are afraid, ashamed and unable to come out about the problem. The substantially more critical aspect, however, is that all this exposure could lead, especially young people, to think “well if Fagioli does it too because I can’t do it”. The risk is that we lose responsibility for our behavior, which is what can happen when this type of behavior is included in the disease paradigm. It is true that gambling is a disease, but it is a disease in which there are also individual responsibilities. In a few weeks the disqualification period will expire for Fagioli, he will certainly not finish the treatment. And also recognizing and reminding ourselves of the fragility that led us to that dependence, recognizing it, is part of the journey.

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He took care of the best regional law that led to a decrease in gambling in Piedmont. Which shows that when you work in synergy the results come. Do you want to tell us about that experience?

What worked best in that law was the restriction of supply, then it was repealed and in fact the game began to grow again. There is little that can be done: we need to ensure that the commercial chain collects less money.

How are receipts reduced?

Restricting the times when you can play. Reducing the capillarity of the offer and putting significant distances between those places and those of usual life. Therefore away from homes, schools, offices. My proposal is to place all the offerings only in dedicated venues and remove them from all generalist businesses.

We dedicated an investigation to substance use, particularly by young people, in the issue of VITA magazine “Drugs, let’s open our eyes”. If you are a subscriber or subscriber to VITA you can read it immediately from here.
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Photo credit: Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse

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