Jan. 04 - Once a nation of savers, Italians are now turning to gambling to help survive the economic crisis, with a further one thousand gambling licences up for grabs by the end of January. Hayley Platt reports
It's a past time enjoyed by many around the world. But in Italy gambling is gripping the nation like never before - and many are using it to survive the recession. (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) BINGO HALL ATTENDEE SAYING: "I play once a month." (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) PENSIONER MARIO GERARDO SAYING: "I play because I like having the hope that I will win something. Every week I buy a card." The euro zone's third-largest economy was once a nation of savers. But recession, public spending cuts and rising unemployment have encouraged many to gamble. Italy is now Europe's biggest gambling destination and 700,000 Italians are said to be addicted. That's no surprise to this Rome lottery ticket seller. (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) TOBACCONIST OWNER SAYING: "They play in the hope of a big win, they want a large win, and they do win quite a lot. I have given out quite a few wins of 10,000 euro." Over the years governments have relaxed the country's once strict gambling laws. It's now seen as a good way to raise revenue and with massive debts to tackle that's something Italy badly needs. 1,000 new gambling licenses are up for grabs this month. And that's angered many. They fear the government is cashing in on a growth industry without considering the social consequences.