As gambling addiction amongst the people of Sweden is on the rise, women are now the frontrunners in this new societal problem. According to a new report issued by the Swedish Health Institute, the amount of people with a severe enough gambling problem for it to be considered an addiction, has reach 45 000.
The number itself has radically increased by 45% over the last three years, from 31 000. The study has been done for almost ten years and for the first time women are now representing the majority. In 2015 only 18% were women compared to todays 64%.
According to Anders Håkansson, who researches the subject at Lund University, he believes one explanation to be the explosion of online casinos.
- What’s quick and easily accessible is more addictive. This is where online casinos stand out. The fact that it has become so big and been exposed through so much advertising over the last few years obviously has had an effect.
Due to the possibility for people to play directly on their phones, it is no longer a strange sight finding people gambling on the metro, bus and/or trains on their commute to and back from work. Many of the players experiencing problems have also reported how they often wait for their children and spouses to go to bed and then spend additional hours staying up playing casino or other online slot sites at night.
Ulla Romild, the investigator behind the report is concerned.
- These sorts of trends are never good. It shows that something is wrong and that we need to find a way to change and limit them.
Romild suspects that about 30 000 children lives in families where one or sometimes even both parents have issues with gambling.
- Gambling addiction has long going consequences such as psychological issues and even suicidal thoughts that also affects family and other close ones. We’re not entirely sure how much this costs society, but it’s a large sum of money, says Romild.
As the industry advertising in many cases is now specifically aimed towards women, the combination with the easily accessible games is having a massive effect. The Swedish Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi, has been extremely critical against this way of advertising and recently called a meeting with representatives from the gaming industry to discuss regulating their way of advertising, but left the meeting unsatisfied.
- I have said that if the industry doesn’t come up with a self-regulatory solution, we will have to look into changing our laws.
After being introduced to the results of this new report and how they clearly outline an issue, Shekarabi says the government will shortly present their way forward.
- At the moment I haven’t excluded any alternatives. I even met with representatives from the Italian government and looked at a total ban on gambling advertising. That would be our last alternative, says Shekarabi.
Håkan Wall, licensed psychologist researching gambling addiction at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, agrees that the online casinos can explain the increase amongst women.
– In my research I see that women in large quantities resort to online casinos. The way it’s set up makes it especially risky. It only takes a few seconds from placing your bet until you win or lose, compared to a lottery where it may take up to a week. That opens up the ability to play a lot during a short period of time. Because of this quick turnaround, it also often results in gambling addicts playing even more, in order to try and cover their losses and win their money back.
Although Women, middle aged and above are most at risk in terms of developing a gambling addiction from money games. For many of them, it’s an escape away from reality. According to the people receiving help for their addictions at the institutions, after “a desire to win money”, gambling to “escape or to distract your attention away from other things” is the second most common reason. This escapism is more common amongst women than men. In reality, this means that people gamble to escape from various challenges is life, such as loneliness, divorce, death in the family, challenges in the work life or other obstacles in their daily life.
Whether it’s women or men that suffers the most isn’t the biggest issue, as it is equally as bad. However, the fact remains that this is a growing problem in the Swedish society and the government is taking it very seriously.