The number of problem gamblers worldwide is growing immensely and currently there is a special group of people who are experiencing difficulties with the issue, namely Jewish teenagers.
Specialists who are researching the issue consider the growing number of betting houses and online casinos in the UK and around the world, to be directly related to the increasing gambling interest among the young Jewish population.
Attempts to address the problem
Various charities and civic organizations around the country have already identified this as a serious problem and are trying to implement various strategies and form support groups, which can help young people, fighting with problem betting.
One example come from Ari Leaman, Head of Boys Clubhouse, centre for young Jewish men with addictions, explained that dealing with gambling is currently his main priority.
He said: “I’m coming across it more than ever. I find it harder to deal with than any other addiction. It destroys a person’s morale and honesty. What’s not kosher about gambling? That’s the way they see it. Gambling is an escape and a buzz.”
Moreover: “The gambler gets caught up and before you know it he’s down. He’s lost GBP 20 that he’s borrowed. The only way to get it back is to steal from his mum. Then there’s a bigger mess and he needs more money. He needs GBP 200 to bail himself out.”
Leaman continued analyzing the problematic issue explaining that male Jewish youth is practically “doing crazy stuff” in order to be able to repay their gambling obligations. Furthermore, the number of these men who decide to attend special Gamblers Anonymous meetings is growing steadily as well.
Jewish young people have more issues with problem gambling
• The situation is getting worse lately
• Specialists say that one of the reasons for the problem is the large number of betting houses
• Mobile casinos, which advertise gambling anytime anywhere are also part of the issue
He said: “The kids I’ve met in the past 10 years who are likely to turn to crime are the gamblers. Stand in the centre of Hendon and count the number of betting shops you can see. They are on every corner.”
Another professional who has direct contact with young people experiencing gambling issues is Rabbi Dr. Chanan Tomlin, Executive director of Kids Trust in Salford, who commented that “gambling was a significant problem and it’s not getting any better.”
He continued: “You don’t have rabbis speaking out against gambling. There is no awareness and there are no lectures on it.”
Moreover: “Poker is a problem among yeshivah students. There is a poker culture among these young Jews. Some of them are going to casinos and some are addicted to scratch cards.”
Further opinion on the increased supply of gambling opportunities especially with the boom of mobile casinos, comes from Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin.
He is the founder of Drugsline, an addiction support group: “There has been a major increase. It’s always been a Jewish illness. There’s a major difference now because of the accessibility. Gambling has come back to the forefront.”
It seems that a serious number of Jewish people in particular are experiencing problem gambling issues, as it is confirmed by yet another Rabbi – Julia Neuberger, ex-chair of the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, who commented: “Gambling is definitely a Jewish problem. A lot of the problem gamblers I met while in the role were Jewish.”
Not surprisingly, the crimes of Jewish people, initiated due to gambling debts are growing. One of the significant examples comes from Joseph Schloss who performed robbery of Jewish charity director’s house, because he owed GBP 30,000 to an Israeli band.
Another popular case was the break-in at the Beth Shmuel Synagogue in Golders Green and detective Allen Windsor from the Barnet Police’s crime unit, who was investigating the break-in, commented that the number of Jew-on-Jew incidents is growing in the last year.
He said: “There have been a large number of burglaries at Jewish properties for a long time, but recently we have identified members of the Jewish community carrying out burglaries at communal buildings.”
Moreover: “It does happen that people steal from their own communities. It’s partly because of the opportunities. In this case they were aware that on a Friday night people would not be around. It’s taking advantage of that opportunity, just like most house burglaries take place during the day while people are at work.”
Despite the unpleasant situation, detective Windsor didn’t miss the opportunity to praise the community, which acted very fast and provided vital information for the investigation.
He commented: “It’s disgraceful that these were three young Jewish lads breaking into a holy place and taking advantage. They knew how to get in and how to carry it out. It’s quite shocking.”
Additionally: “When we went down to the synagogue to view the CCTV, the community had just finished their morning prayers. People were approaching me and my colleague to give us information to help us catch them. People were happy to come forward. In some communities that does not happen.”