The Ministry of Social Affairs announced a strategic partnership application round in October, in order to find a partner through which it could support people with gambling addictions.
The partnership allows the government department to cooperate with and empower NGOs, supporting their organisational development and operational capacity.
More than 200 people in need currently receive free psychological counselling from the centre, and in addition it has planned to offer debt counselling to over 100 people.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Social Affairs, the risk of pathological gambling in the Estonian population is 7%, and it is important to offer those affected comprehensive assistance, including psychological and financial counselling.
The ministry also said it wished to better understand the exposure of minors to gambling in the jurisdiction, and therefore considers it very important to conduct a thorough study and support gambling addicts for a longer period of time.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the growth of gaming behaviour among both young people and adults,” Pille-Riin Indermitte, head of MTÜ Gambling Addiction Counselling Centre, said. “On the one hand, gambling behaviour has increased initially, primarily as a way to spend time, but as it deepens, other interests disappear and it is difficult to return to school and work responsibilities.
“On the other hand, the increase in gambling is due to the hope to improve our financial situation when employment opportunities have decreased. We are pleased to pilot a support group service and, for the first time, to carry out a study on the spread of gambling and digital addiction problems among minors in Estonia.”
The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has led to an increased focus on problem gambling in several jurisdictions. The British Gambling Commission has repeatedly urged its licensees to act responsibly during periods of lockdown, while tough restrictions on licensee behaviour, such as advertising bans in Spain and online casino restrictions in Sweden, have also come into effect.