Rome: Gambling is the third biggest business in Italy, where nearly one million people are addicted, according to a study.

“We estimated that Italy has the biggest gambling turnover in Europe, amounting to over 76 billion euro ($99 billion) a year legally, plus 10 billion euro illegally,” said Marcello Cozzi, deputy president of Libera, an anti-mafia association.

A Libera study said each Italian spends on average about 1,260 euros ($1,648) per year in scratch cards, slot machines, video poker or bingo.

Online betting was growing the fastest, as gamblers spent 1.5 billion euros on the internet last year, tripling the 2010 turnover.

Presently more than 800,000 Italians, including many underage people, are addicted and can be cured only by specialists, Cozzi told Xinhua Tuesday.

“The problem of gambling addiction is very serious, and has increasingly worsened in this period of economic crisis, with many people searching the lucky break that could change their lives,” he said.

Criminal organisations are attracted by such business that always makes a profit. That is why many mafia clans are running gambling activities throughout the country, he pointed out.

“At a time of economic difficulty, the lure of quick and easy wealth has ruined many Italians, particularly those more vulnerable such as young, unemployed, poor and elderly people,” international cooperation minister Andrea Riccardi recently said.

Source: IANS