Svenska Spel finds no evidence of problem gambling spike amid COVID pandemic

The Swedish gambling operator Svenska Spel said it has not seen evidence of a spike in problem gambling during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sweden’s state-owned gambling operator Svenska Spel said that during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic it did not see an increase in problem gambling, however, it noted that players with existing issues gambled more.

On Monday, during the Svenska Spel Independent Research Council’s annual research day, studies showed similar findings.

This comes after AB Trav och Galopp said earlier this week, that its fears of a rise in problem gambling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic have proved to be unfounded.

Svenska Spel’s findings

The consensus was that overall, Swedish consumers spent less during the early months of the pandemic but problem gambling levels remained the same.

Filip Lindner, a researcher at Karolinska Institutet, noted that the decline in gambling spend was not surprising due to a drop in sports betting activity as many sporting events around the world were cancelled. Linder also pointed out there was a shift from online sports betting players to online casino games.

Lindner said that there was no evidence of an increase in problem gambling behaviour during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Sweden.

Anders Håkansson, a professor from Lund University, agreed with Lindner that there was a decline in overall gambling activity, but highlighted that players who had suffered from problem gambling in the past tended to spend more than other players.

However, Håkansson and a senior lecturer at the University of Gothenburg, Anna Söderpalm Gordh, who both work at addiction centres in Sweden said they did not see any increase in referrals to their respective addiction clinics.

Svenska Spel’s independent research council chair, Sara Lindholm, said: “These are two rather small and limited studies from which one may not draw any major conclusions, but they give indications that gambling did not increase.”

The findings presented were also reflected in Svenska Spel’s financial performance in June where the operator reported a 9.6% year-on-year decline in revenue for the first half of the year.

Research into criminal activity and problem gambling

The Council also looked at research into criminal activity linked to problem gambling in Sweden.

Research provided by Per Binde, an associate professor at the University of Gothenburg, looked at Swedish rulings between 2014 and 2018 and various factors such as age, gender, types of crimes committed, where the people lived and how the gambling was linked to crime.

Binde noted that women who committed these crimes often lived in smaller cities and had no criminal background, while the majority of men lived in large cities and did have a previous criminal record.

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