Problem gambling trends and features in Scandinavia

Gambling is one of the biggest and most lucrative industries in the world. Just online gambling, which is just half of what this industry can offer, is currently worth almost $50 billion worldwide. 

This goes to show just how big this entertainment sector really is. However, even though the majority of gamblers find joy and entertainment in their favorite slots, poker, and blackjack, a small minority of people develop an addiction towards it and slowly plunge into a psychological and financial hell.

In the battle against problem gambling

The world is increasingly becoming aware of problem gambling and its implications to literally every age demographic in every country. In the beginning, people visit brick-and-mortar casinos or online gambling websites to relax and get away from every-day problems. However, as time goes on and their passion for gambling increases, they find themselves locked in a closed circle. They realize that their addiction is an issue, however, their urge is more prevalent and influential. 

And so do they become problem gamblers. In almost every developed, or even developing country, the private and public institutions invest in thorough research that reveals the problem at its core, then devise a systematic plan to battle its causes, and then do everything in their power to unroot it. 

Scandinavia is one of such regions where comprehensive research is being produced regularly, if not annually. And as the various Scandinavian institutions continue to conduct research and publish their findings, some of the most alarming details are revealed to the public: in all three countries – Norway, Sweden, and Finland – the problem gambling seems to be getting worse every single year.

Norway

Let’s start the problem gambling overview with Norway. The online gambling sector in Norway is known to be one of the most restricted ones in the world. Since 2008, the Norwegian government granted two of the biggest companies the monopoly to operate in this field, while other native and offshore companies became subject to heavy governmental oppression – in a legal framework, of course. 

However, as it turns out, even this stringent regulatory practice isn’t enough to prevent the occurrence of problem gambling. According to Morten Klein, who is an investor and owner of Norway’s biggest investment companies Cherry Ab, the issue of problem gambling goes beyond the current governmental effort, and the country needs to take an example from other countries’ regulatory frameworks, including Sweden, which we’ll talk about in the next chapter. 

Currently, there are more than 120,000 Norwegians that are considered either problem gamblers or at risk of becoming ones. But that’s not the only group that is being heavily damaged by a dark side of gambling: their families and close friends, too, have to face these terrible consequences alongside the actual gamblers. So, this number goes well beyond 120,000.

Sweden

As we mentioned above, Sweden has become an example of gambling regulations around the world. Under the country’s current legislation, every gambling operator that wants to be running their business in the country has to be associated with spelpaus.se. Spelpaus is a website that acts as a self-exclusionary mechanism for problem gamblers: if they recognize that their addiction towards gambling is beyond their control, they can willingly restrict themselves from this damaging behavior by registering on the website. 

And one can say this practice actually works: when compared to the last survey of 2015, the number of problem gamblers in Sweden has decreased to reach 45,000 Swedes. However, one particular group’s dependency on gambling has still increased. 

In every country around the world, the majority of problem gamblers are men – take the US, Norway, the Uk, Australia – everywhere without an exception. However, Sweden has become the first country even in its history where women are more susceptible to problem gambling than men. 

According to a survey conducted by the country’s health institution, almost 64% of problem gamblers are Swedish women. When compared to 2015, this number has increased by 18% in just 4 years. 

As the Public Health Agency of Sweden explains, this trend can be associated with the rise of online gambling in the country. They allow women to play what they have traditionally preferred such as lotteries, bingo, and slots.

Finland

As for Finland, the country has a second-biggest problem gambling population in the region. A health survey that is being conducted every four years in Finland has revealed that almost 2.7% of Fins in the age group of 15-74 have developed an unhealthy dependence on gambling. In actual numbers, that’s around 110,000 people. 

The country’s government has also been trying to combat this problem by various regulatory measures. For instance, some of the most popular forms of gambling like horse betting, lottery, and gaming machine operators were merged under the control of Veikkaus in hopes of better oversight on the industry as a whole. 

However, this measure didn’t really help ease the problem. Besides 2.7% problem gamblers, some other indicators are also alarming, for instance: the majority of problem gamblers were confined in the age group of 25-34; 56% of problem gamblers were gambling every day or almost every day. 

As for sex distribution, Finland, just like everywhere else except for Sweden, has almost three times more male problem gamblers than females. The distribution looks like this: 4.7% male and 1.6% female.

In need to overcome gambling dependency

All in all, three Scandinavian countries have been closely monitoring the problem gambling issue that’s been plaguing tens, and even hundreds of thousands of their citizens. Norway, Sweden, and Finland have introduced various regulatory measures to battle the issue with differing results. 

As time goes on, the new technology will introduce new possibilities for both governments and the problem gamers themselves. Hopefully, the world can effectively overcome this issue soon enough.

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