Edition #5: Telling our stories

City Hall in Ostersund, Sweden
City Hall in Ostersund, Sweden
Photo: iStock

Around the globe

Postcard from Östersund, Sweden

Hallå from Sweden, home of Swelogs, one of the world’s largest longitudinal gambling studies.

Swelogs (Swedish Longitudinal Gambling Study) was launched in 2008 to acquire up-to-date knowledge on gambling in Sweden. The results from waves one and two are now available in English: Gambling and gambling problems in Sweden 2008–2010.

Conducted by the Public Health Agency of Sweden, Swelogs is similar to the extensive Victorian Gambling Study.

We are currently analysing data from all four waves of the Swelogs study (2008–2014) and will be releasing the final report later this year. Our work on the project was put on hold when we had the opportunity to conduct a new prevalence study in 2015.

Fewer people gamble, but proportion with severe problems remains the same

We interviewed 9420 Swedish inhabitants for the new prevalence study, and recently released the results at a seminar in June. Findings included:

  • Participation in gambling, regarded as any gambling the past year, has generally declined. However, participation in some types of gambling, such as betting on races and buying lottery tickets online, has increased. The total amount of money spent on gambling is still at the same level as seven years ago, or maybe higher. This means those who still gamble are doing it more intensely.
  • Gambling problems have also decreased generally, except for the proportion of people with severe gambling problems, which remains the same as 2008. Given the population has grown, this means a higher number of people. Gambling problems have declined among the youngest people in our study (aged 16–17 years) and among young males (aged 18–24), who showed the highest prevalence rate seven years ago. Men aged 25-44 and women aged 45-64 recorded the highest prevalence rate in this study.
  • Online gambling has increased overall, and some online gambling is linked to the highest rates of gambling problems.

It is interesting to compare the results from these new interviewees with the results of Swelogs, which had ongoing participants, and see similar trends compared to the 2008 baseline.

Investigating a more regulated gambling market

Online gambling, in particular, online casino companies and their massive advertising, is nowadays often discussed in Sweden.

The Swedish Ministry of Finance is investigating the possibility of using licenses to regulate online operators who target Sweden. The purpose of the regulation would be to form a Swedish gambling market that offers high consumer protection, considers social wellbeing and moderates advertising.

The investigation is also looking at the role the state would play in such a market, including implications for the state-owned Svenska Spel, which runs the four Swedish casinos as well as lotteries, sports betting and gambling machines; the ATG, which is owned by Swedish horseracing organisations and provides race betting; and other operators in Sweden providing lotteries and bingo. The results of the investigation will be presented in March 2017.

Cooperation across government in prevention and treatment

In October last year, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, presented results of an investigation into the prevention and treatment of gambling problems.

Recommendations have led to the National Board of Health and Welfare and the Public Health Agency of Sweden producing more targeted information on gambling treatment and prevention for local and regional services in health care and related areas.

The investigation also resulted in new initiatives for cooperation between government agencies. Disappointingly, recommendations for changes to the law on the responsibilities of local and regional bodies in delivering treatment and support are not likely to be realised in the near future.

So we keep on trying to understand the mechanisms around gambling problems, and hope to contribute to a better society.

Adjö from Östersund!

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