Cypriots start gambling on average at the age of 12.5 while six per cent of the population are pathological gamblers, a study presented by the national betting authority on Monday revealed.
According to the results, 75 per cent of the population over the age of 15 gambles or dabbles with it at some point in their life. This corresponds to 399,750 people out of which 13 per cent show symptoms of possible problematic behaviour.
Six per cent or just under 24,000 are described as pathological players.
This is the first time research of this kind has been carried out in Cyprus, which aimed to discover how widespread and popular games of chance are, as well as provide a better understanding of gamblers – particularly pathological ones.
Carried out by IMR Cyprus and the University of Nicosia, and presented during a press conference at the finance ministry, it also found that the average age by which people in Cyprus start playing games of chance is 12.5.
A total of 31 per cent said the first time they gambled was in front of their father, 22 per cent with a friend and 19 per cent with their mother.
Twelve per cent said they were in the presence of a sibling while five per cent said they were with their grandfather and three per cent outlined they were with another relative.
According to the study, 85 per cent of participants believe the state should be more involved in regulating games of chance.
Chairwoman of the national betting authority Ioanna Fiakkou, said six out of 10 games players opt for are either illegal or in a grey area and as such prove that government’s involvement is necessary.
Fiakkou said lack of information until now has allowed for a lot of misconception. “The results of the study cover the gap and provide the right tools to take effective measures,” she said.
As such, the next step for the authority is to send out invitations to both public and private actors involved in gambling games, as well as public law experts to create an ad hoc committee aimed at creating a national strategy, she added.
At present, responsibilities lie across various authorities and coordination is still in their very early stages, Fiakkou said.
According to medical sociologist and University of Nicosia professor Constantinos Phellas, the study has shown the catalytic role Cypriot families have when it comes to gambling, particularly from male role models.
“Many players state that in their first experience with games of chance, they were accompanied by their father or another family member,” he said. “Therefore family, and especially the male family prototype, which is generally seen as the initiator of young players in the world of gambling have a large share of responsibility to protect minors from the dangers of addiction.”
They should foster the idea of a healthy gambling attitude which reflects a sound knowledge of limitations.
Lecturer in law at the University of Nicosia Antonis Stylianou said the research was of major importance in mapping out behaviour of people who played games of chance and was a useful tool to prompt recommendations on the legislative framework on gambling.
The study was carried out nationwide between November 2017 and January 2018, with personal interviews from a random sample of 3,000 people aged 15 years-old and over.
Popular games of chance include playing cards, slot machines, scratch tickets or numbered balls drawn from a container.
An integrated casino resort, the City of Dreams Mediterranean, is slated to open its doors in 2021 in the Zakaki area, west of Limassol.
A temporary casino will operate in the city until the resort is completed, which along with four satellite casinos in Nicosia, Larnaca, Famagusta area and Paphos, are expected to begin operating in the first half of 2018.