La Jornada – Illegal gambling, a multi-million dollar business

Mexico. The legal betting business is worth a million dollars, but nothing compared to the monetary scale of illegal betting, for which an estimated $140 billion is laundered each year. And most of them globally are illegal.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stresses that the real risk of harm to the integrity of sport lies in illegal betting, the profits of which far exceed the regulated industry in turn.

“The threat posed to sport by illegal betting is amplified by the growing money laundering associated with this illicit activity. Estimates of the scale and scope of illegal gambling vary, with some estimating that up to $140 billion is laundered through sports betting every year and the amount wagered in illegal gambling markets ranges from $340 billion. to $1.7 billion,” according to the UNODC report.

“It is estimated that up to 80% of sports and horse betting worldwide is carried out illegally,” warns the agency.

No country is immune to this problem of illegal sports betting, a particularly attractive ground for organized crime; UNODC recognizes that in Latin America and the Caribbean this is a growing evil. And he points out that “information on trends and related developments (in the region) is limited.”

In Mexico, on June 14, 2021, the collaboration agreement was signed with the Financial Intelligence Unit to prevent and combat possible acts of corruption related to games and raffles, including those related to online betting.

“The CRF carries out surprise reviews, either once a year or several times; it does so based on parameters and operation volumes,” says Salvador Rotter, a professor at the Faculty of Accounting and Administration at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

“He pays a lot of attention to these operations because they are vulnerable activities; In addition, with virtual casinos, transfers are done online,” he adds.

The social impact in Mexico

Faced with the omnipresence of the betting business, which leaves no room for sports entertainment, advertising and the standardization of this practice are increasingly common. In the last NFL game at Azteca Stadium on Nov. 21, 2022, where the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in front of some 78,000 spectators, the colossus’ screens displayed advertising for a gaming company with useful statistics to participate in certain live combinations.

The normality with which this practice has spread is evident with the 70 million Mexicans who have participated in some of the different forms of betting available, as Alfredo González Portillo, an official of the National Addictions Commission (Conadic) points out. . . This overpopulation due to gambling can pose a risk to public health, experts agree.

“We are not saying that these 70 million have developed gambling-related pathology, whether they are at risk or not, but it will depend on the emotional control and the use they make of the platforms or the place where they participate” , explains the Conade specialist.

“The use of these gambling mechanisms and practices has increased by about 150%, but a pathology does not necessarily develop,” he says.

According to the information that emerges from the Conadic national survey – adds González Portillo – the first type of gambling among Mexicans is the lottery; Then come “scratch cards”, slot machines and card games; fifth place is occupied by sports betting.

Gambling or pathological gambling is behavior where there is an irrepressible impulse to bet on one game, or several, and it becomes recurrent, episodic and chronic. Not only does it impact the health of those who manifest it, but it also presents problems with sociability, neglects their daily activities and compromises their heritage or that of others.

“It is a health problem that has increased in recent years in our country and in the world”, continues the specialist; “It’s related to the increase and availability of these venues, casinos and internet sites.”

Specialists indicate that not all forms of gambling involve this disorder and should not be stigmatized. The game itself, they warn, is an activity of socialization and integration into the community. But you need to be careful how you participate in entertainment that involves gambling.

“I’m not going to say betting is good or bad,” says Carlos Alberto Vázquez Villegas, a psychologist at UNAM’s Department of University Sports. “It should also be mentioned that companies (casinos, TV channels, sports leagues, etc.) influence the development of gambling pathology, but are not the cause of the phenomenon.

“Today we are witnessing a very big sporting event like the World Cup, where it is common for bets and pools to be made between friends and family. In these cases, for example, we must always understand it as an activity for fun and nothing more, without the idea that an income can be obtained in it or that our state of mind depends on winning or losing,” concludes Vázquez Villegas.


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