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Head of Berlin Police Department Decries Gambling Problem

In recent years, Berlin has become a gambling mecca for Germany and Eastern Europe, though it still has a long way to go in rivaling Las Vegas or Monaco.


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By John Lavitt


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Once divided by the Berlin Wall, the capital of Germany is now being divided between gamblers and non-gamblers, and the non-gamblers feel like their city is under siege. In fact, Berlin is rapidly becoming a haven for gambling addicts across Germany and Eastern Europe. Home to 600 gambling arcades, 300 sports betting houses, and roughly 2,500 café-casinos, Berlin is rife with gambling addicts in desperate straits.

Incredibly, one fifth of Germany’s 100,000 gambling addicts now live in Berlin and more are pouring into the city on a daily basis. Due to the vast number of places to gamble, Berlin has become Germany's gambling mecca, though the city remains a far cry from Monaco or Las Vegas. But according to Berlin's chief of police, Wolfgang Peterson - not to be confused with the director of Das Boot and Air Force One - his city has become "the Las Vegas for poor people."

Despite regulations designed to stem the tide, like a rule forbidding the opening of a new gambling outlet within 500 meters of an existing one, little if anything has proven to be effective. Police have found that 90 percent of the Berlin's gambling shops are violating the very regulations adopted to curb gambling's expansion in the city.

One major problem has been the virus-like infestation of slot machines throughout the city; regulators are unable to keep tabs on a regular basis. “Operators of arcades feel they are unobserved, so many of them violate the regulations," said Miriam Benert, spokeswoman for the federal association of private casinos. "This only comes to light once the police conduct a surprise raid.”

But surprise raids are few and far between. It has appeared nothing will alter the change in the legendary city from cultural hub to the drudgery of a gambling town. After all, it is and always will be about the precious Euro.

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