Gambling is a risk-taking activity whereby you bet something of value on a random event in order to win something else of value. It is illegal to bet without a license or permit. However, online gambling is legal in some places in the United States and some Canadian provinces. Online gambling is also permitted in the Caribbean and some other parts of Europe. Unlike land-based gambling, there is no legal distinction between sports betting and casino gambling. This is because land-based lotteries and casinos are run by state-based monopolies and online casinos are operated by individual operators.
The present study was carried out as part of a larger project to assess the impacts of online gambling on mental health in Sweden. A sample of online gamblers (N = 997) participated in the study. They were interviewed about their past-year and past-30-day gambling habits. Proportions of problem gamblers were measured using the Problem Gambling Severity Index.
The previous study used a similar method to recruit participants. The sample consisted of individuals with severe gambling problems. Those with a past-30-day history of online gambling were more likely to report that they had experienced a gambling problem, while those with a past-year history of gambling were less likely to have such a history. Participants who reported a history of indebtedness were also more likely to report that they had a gambling problem.
Past-30-day gambling types were compared to data collected from a 2018 survey. In both cases, the number of people reporting that they had gambled in the last 30 days was significantly higher for online horse betting than other gambling types. Although there were no differences between the gender distribution, there were significant age differences between the groups.
The current study confirms that some gambling types were more affected during the COVID-19 crisis than others. Specifically, online casino, land-based casino, and land-based poker were all more common. Respondents who had reported gambling in the past-30 days were also more likely to report online bingo or online poker than those who did not. These results were largely unchanged when the study was compared to the previous sample.
During the COVID-19 crisis, many countries had large restrictions on gambling. Despite the restrictions, a high percentage of people were still involved in sports betting. Moreover, there were reports of a shift in some sports bettors to riskier forms of gambling during the crisis. Consequently, future follow-up studies should explore new measures of gambling behavior in different pandemic phases.
Self-report data cannot provide a direct measurement of the extent of an increase in gambling. However, it is more reliable than objective measures. For example, the PGSI provides a nine-item scale that can be used to measure the severity of hazardous gambling behavior. The percentage of moderate-risk gamblers in the current study was 18 percent. While the proportion of problem gamblers was five percent, it is possible that this is a result of a smaller number of problem gamblers in the recent sample.