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Jani Peteri: “Gambling addiction is a symptom of a bigger, underlying problem”

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Jani Peteri

Carrying on our ‘responsible gaming’ talks with industry leaders, this week we have the pleasure to exchange a few words with Jani Peteri.

Jani is what I consider a true gentleman, with whom I had the pleasure to work a few years back. Besides his talent as a Creative Director – at service of companies such as Betfair, PokerStars, Bonnier Gaming, Raketech and Bethard – what I admired most about Jani were his manners: relentless yet always available, extremely polite even in the most stressful days.

In the interview below, he shared his point of view on some of the most delicate and pressing topics for the gambling industry. Let’s see what he had to say:

  • Jani, when and how did your career in the gambling industry begin?
    JP: It happened when I moved to London. It was the first job I got there, and now it’s been over 12 years of service in the industry. At times it’s challenging, with too many changes in a very volatile business.
  • From a customer perspective, what is your favourite product?
    JP: Poker, and any other well made quality products that keeps the user entertained.
  • What do you like about the gambling industry?
    JP: Lots of new technology to adapt to, many great people with good drive, and good perks.
  • If there was something that you could change in every person, what would it be?
    JP: Fear. It’s something I would remove if I could, as it causes so much misery and mistrust in people.
  • Name someone who inspires you.
    JP: Jim Rohn and Tony Robbins… so much knowledge of human behaviour and how to change.
  • What would you want your legacy to be?
    JP: I’d like to be remembered as someone who has made a positive difference for people.
  • What do you think will be the next big thing in the gambling industry?
    JP: Depends on technology, but I see it sneaking in closer to peoples’ lives.
  • Do you think companies should do more in the field of Responsible Gaming?
    JP: It’s not the companies’ fault people play; responsibility is something you need to be taught at home.
  • Internet changed gambling, making it more accessible, but this also raised social concerns due to exposure for vulnerable individuals. How to balance the pros and cons for long term sustainability?
    JP: Again, this is something that needs to be taught at home, take responsibility. Can’t really have the politicians having to teach people.
  • If you had one sentence to convince world leaders to legalize gambling in their country, what would you tell them?
    JP: People are going to play anyhow, so you might as well give them good products that can control the gambling in best possible way.
  • Do you think gambling ban is a solution for tackling gambling addiction?
    JP: A gambling addict will find other ways to destroy their lives. The problems is not gambling, it is just the symptom of the real underlying problems the individual has.
  • Concluding our interview, is there an advice you would like to give to current gamblers:
    JP: Yes: never play with money you do not have.

Thanking Jani for his insightful responses, there is one particular topic he mentioned which is worthy of a more in-depth consideration: the cause vs symptom paradigm of gambling addiction.

The general consensus is that gambling addiction cannot be narrowed to one single cause. As such, there are many factors that can contribute to it. These include desperation for money, the desire to experience thrills, the social status associated with being a successful gambler, the entertaining atmosphere of the gambling scene, and so on. 

The multitude of causes can be grouped into three main categories:

  • Biological
  • Psychological
  • Socio-cultural

These causes tend to be inter-related, therefore each of these factors contributes in some manner to the formation of a gambling addiction.

The biological causes include each person’s unique physiology and genetics. This recalls a recent UK study hinting gambling addiction to be genetic. People differ in the degree to which they enjoy gambling as a form of entertainment. Some people may enjoy this form of entertainment so much that it becomes very tempting and difficult to resist. Other people do not experience the same degree of enjoyment and therefore are less likely to become addicted. Furthermore, the ability to temper impulsive desires with rational thought varies among people. Those who have an impaired ability to resist certain types of impulses face a greater risk of developing an addiction because of this genetic vulnerability.

Psychology is a major contributor. Some researchers tried to understand why people repeat certain activities, even when these lead to harmful consequences, and the indication is that people learn to anticipate some benefits (stress reduction, relief from boredom, pleasurable sensations, coping with negative feelings or situations, …) even though the addiction is harmful. It also comes down to the individual level of emotional intelligence. People have varying skills and abilities to cope with unpleasant emotions or circumstances. When people have poor coping skills they are more vulnerable to addictions as they provide a temporary – but ultimately ineffective – way of dealing with life’s problems.
Another key psychological aspect is motivation. Without sufficient motivation, people cannot easily change unhealthy behaviours, though psychologists can help strengthen people’s motivation through therapy and other techniques.

Socio-cultural influences also contribute to the development of gambling addiction. Human beings have a fundamental need for social interaction. Some types of addictions – including gambling – give opportunities for pleasing social interactions, and casinos try to capitalize on this using exciting social atmospheres in their marketing materials. Another component is the cultural acceptance of a behaviour. For example, States’ lotteries contribute to a cultural acceptance of gambling.
However, the greatest social influence comes from the family. This is how culture is transmitted from one generation to the next, and it’s no surprise that nowadays children gambling habits are being looked at very carefully.

Maurizio Savino