Nearlyhalf of the men in Goa engage in some form of gambling and are currentgamblers, a first-of-its-kind comprehensive study on the prevalence of gamblingconducted in the coastal state has revealed.
Thestudy was conducted by non-government organisation Sangath and 1514 menresponded to the survey questionnaire. The population-based sample was selectedbased on electoral rolls, and participants were selected at random fromeligible households.
It was published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry recently. Lotteries and Matka, a banned but nonetheless popular form of gambling in Maharashtra and Goa involving small bets, are the most popular forms, according to the study, which focussed on the prevalence and associated side effects of gambling.
Interestingly,the presence of casinos in the state which permit 'legal' gambling appears tohave no impact on the local populace with only 1.1% of survey respondentsadmitting that they visited casinos regularly (at least once a month).
According to the study, 49.9% of participants reported engaging in gambling behaviors at least once in their lifetime while 45.4% reported current gambling or in the past 12 months.
"Wefound a high prevalence of current gamblers in the sample, with close to half(45.4%) reporting engaging in some kind of gambling activity, and one-third ofthose who gamble engaging in multiple forms of gambling," the study reveals.
"We also found that lifetime and current gambling are associated with work-related problems, interpersonal violence, tobacco use, and alcohol use disorders; and additionally, current gambling is associated with rural residence," it said.
The most common form of gambling was the lottery at 67.8% and the highest frequency of gambling activity was Matka, with approximately 39.5% participants engaging in the activity at least once to thrice a week. Other popular forms of gambling were card and dice games involving money and betting on sports outcomes.
Dr. Abhijit Nadkarni, who mentored the study, has however cautioned that all those who gamble need not be "problematic gamblers".
"We looked at the presence of gambling in Goa and not just problematic gambling. So if 50% of men in Goa like gambling it doesn't mean that all of them are problematic gamblers," Nadkarni said.
"Youwould find similar numbers if you did a survey of alcohol consumption amongmen. Around 50% of adult men in Goa drink but this doesn't mean that they areproblematic drinkers," he added.
Instead, what concerns the researchers is the ease of access to gambling, especially matka. "While the big focus is on casinos, what goes under the radar in the form of gambling 'Matka', which a certain kind of socio-demographic from the lower strata has access to," Dr. Nadkarni said. "They get affected more because even if the loss is small, it diverts from a small pot of household money into this and it makes an impact on education and health expenses," he said.
Some forms of gambling are legal in Goa, including state-run lotteries and privately-run off-shore and land-based casinos. The former falls under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Small Savings and Lotteries in Goa and its revenue is channeled to social welfare causes in the state.
The latter has served to boost Goa's tourism industry, with an expanding casino market—there are 15 operational casinos—seeing around 15,000 visitors every day.
Gambling behaviors and their associated impact mimic those of other addictions: loss of control, tolerance to the level of activity, withdrawal symptoms, and negative consequences at an individual and broader level.
Researchersbelieve that the prevalence of gambling is strongly related to access and partsof the country that have similar access to such activities would throw upsimilar results.
"InIndia, the public response to gambling has been largely shaped by moral andlegal perspectives which undermine other perspectives, particularly a clinicalone especially considering that help-seeking for addictions and accessibleformal sources of help are minimal," the researchers, who included UrvitaBhatia Bhargav Bhat and Sanju George, said.
"There is a need to examine explanatory models and pathways to help reduce unmet needs of the target population; a greater understanding of the short and long-term burden of gambling on a range of outcomes; and mechanisms that can be targeted in prevention and treatment programs," they said.
"This accumulated evidence needs to be used to influence the decision-making of clinical practitioners as well as policymakers."