ROME, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Problem gamblers have quadrupled in Italy over the past decade, soaring from an estimated 100,000 people in 2007 to 400,000 in 2017, according to a new study published Thursday by the National Research Council (CNR).
Of these, almost 100,000 respondents said they turned to loan sharks to feed their gambling compulsion, another 100,000 admitted they harmed others financially, and over 30,000 said they suffered economic damage due to gambling.
"While all forms of dependency are due to a general lack of personal satisfaction, the main cause of this increase is due to the fact that the gambling offer and availability has soared exponentially," CNR researcher and epidemiology expert Sabrina Molinaro told Xinhua.
"We've gone from people having to physically get themselves to a casino, to betting shops and slot machine parlors proliferating on every block -- not to mention online gambling, which is available 24/7," Molinaro explained.
Over 17 million Italians or 42.8 percent of the population gambled at least once in 2017, compared to 10 million or 27.9 percent in 2014, the CNR report said. Of these, about 1.4 million played online.
As well, 10.8 percent of students aged 15-19 said they didn't know gambling is illegal for kids under 18, and an estimated 580,000 minors gambled at least once last year.
Almost 40 percent of respondents believe they will get rich by gambling, with that number rising to 48.3 percent among problem gamblers. However when they were asked about results, 40.1 percent said they had gambled and lost over the past year, 48 percent said they broke even, and 11.9 percent said they came out on top.
The CNR study also showed a majority of gamblers spend an average of 10 euros (almost 12 U.S. dollars) a month, with problem gamblers spending anywhere from 50 to upwards of 200 euros a month.
Overall in Italy, men (51.1 percent) gamble more than women (34.4 percent).
The study, which questioned Italians on their habits with regards to lottery tickets, card games, slot machines, and sports betting, used the term "problem gamblers" and not "gambling addicts", because the latter would require a psychiatric evaluation, Molinaro said.