TALLINN - Opponents of the casino business had their day in Tallinn on July 18. The Saturday celebration was marked by the placement of a corner stone monument, dedicated to the victims of casino gambling. The stone was put just opposite the Stockman department store.
The gambling industry considers though that at this rate they will soon have to put up gravestones for most of their casinos, as well as for those branches of business which are being financed due to the revenues that result from gambling.
Nonetheless, these Estonian casinos seem to be the last hope for tourists from Russia, where the gambling business has been driven into the corners, reports Internet portal novosti.err.ee.
In reality, these active members of the movement against casinos have put up the monument in just the same location where, two years ago, they carried out the first big move against the gaming establishment in Estonia.
However, not all of the followers of the monument movement's leader, Hendrik Hansen, share his opinion about the situation concerning casinos. They find casinos useful in the way that all the taxes collected from casinos go towards the support of various cultural activities, and that's why cultural groups have felt the hard times after the new law on gambling was passed earlier this year.
According to the chairman of the Estonian Association of Gambling Operators, Tonis Ruutel, there are about 2,000 slot machines all around the country. Ruutel also added that the market has fallen approximately 60 percent.
"The income from the taxes were thought to be more than 400 million kroons (24 million euros), though, in fact, the income came in at less than 200 million," he said.
The casino opponents quote different statistics. According to these, there are 50,000 gambling addicts in Estonia, and 80,000 active gamblers. The statistics also show that 100 people have reportedly committed suicide as a result of gambling.
"Unfortunately, gambling is a serious problem in our family. I was really terrified to discover that my husband is a gambler and spent all his salary in casinos. I am a housewife and we have a small baby and my husband is the only member of our family who earns a living. I was shocked to discover that he didn't pay our bills, in order to spend it in casinos. Our child needs medical care but we have no money for it. I hope that closing down casinos will solve the problem of many families," said one
29-year-old woman who asked not to be named.
Estonian politician and well-known sculptor Max Kaur, one of the leaders of the anti-casino movement, adds his comments to the discussion: "I am very glad that after fighting for two years we could achieve some success about accepting this law, enacted January 1, 2009. I think that it is a good start to prevent casino gambling in Estonia as much as is possible. As for me, gambling is at the same level as taking drugs, prostitution and all other illegal businesses. We should put an end to having so many losses just because of gamblingâ€¦ Having casinos at this level is the same as selling drugs, why don't we do that as well? I am not against casinos, I am for having cultural casinos like the one in the Park Hotel."
Kaur goes on to suggest using Sweden and Finland as examples, countries where "there are just a couple of casinos. I am for having casinos if they are under the state's control, and no more than 2 or 3 in the whole country."