Betting on the rise in the Czech Republic

Betting is becoming more and more popular in the Czech Republic, as well as a source of big business for bookies and slot machine arcades. Last year alone, the Czechs set a new record, spending 60 billion crowns on the horses, football and lottery tickets. Alena Skodova has this report:

More and more people seem to be lured by the hope of getting rich quick, and last year they spent a record sum on lotteries, casinos, betting shops and slot machines. In the year 2000, Czechs bet 60.5 billion crowns, which represents approximately one tenth of the state budget, and around 10 billion crowns more than in 1999. Last year alone the Czech Republic's 10 million citizens spent an average of 1,500 crowns each on betting.

Around Christmas, queues at newsagents grew as there were long lines of people who wanted to register their bet into the nation-wide Sazka lottery, promising around 60 million crowns for the jackpot. So what is behind the growing interest in betting? Psychologist Karel Humhal told the Czech newpaper Lidove Noviny that each year saw the introduction of a great number of new games and new kinds of bets, and people are simply attracted by the new possibilities of winning money.

Another important factor is the improving economic situation of the Czech population, and logic has it that the more money you have, the more you're willing to risk on a bet. It's slot machine and betting shops that profit most. When you walk through any Czech town, you are likely to find several slot machine arcades - called 'herna' in Czech. But gambling has started posing a big problem for psychologists and psychiatrists, who say it paralyses family life and is a frequent cause of suicide. Statistics say that one Czech in 30 has succumbed to gambling - around three percent of the population.