Online casinos have always been popular, but they became a real asset once COVID-19 started spreading worldwide.
As land-based casinos closed their doors for a few long months and people had to remain indoors, people looked for some sort of escapism in the virtual world. Therefore, many gamblers found themselves joining online casinos. As a result, the online gambling industry generated record-breaking revenues.
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But while online casinos in Europe and online casinos in USA enjoyed the attention they have received, some people weren’t happy with the rising popularity of online gambling.
Over the past few months, multiple voices arose, claiming that the combination of social distancing, quarantine, and online gambling is disastrous. Experts believed that it could lead players to develop gambling problems and cause psychological damage.
Two psychiatry experts from Sweden took an interest in the matter and decided to investigate the issue further. What did they discover? How has COVID-19 affected gambling patterns? Now is your chance to find out the answers to those questions!
How Gambling Patterns Changed During the Pandemic
To explore the effects of the pandemic on gambling behavior, Anders Håkansson and Carolina Widinghoff from Lund University published two online surveys. The first one became available in April 2020, and the second one went online in November of the same year.
Both times, the researchers collected data from 2,000+ participants, trying to figure out whether gambling patterns have changed in the course of this tumultuous year.
The First Survey
Out of all participants, who were mainly over 40 years old, 45% reported they spent more time at home once the pandemic started. An additional 34% spent slightly more time indoors, and 20% haven’t changed their routine in this respect.
Surprisingly enough, the first survey yielded some interesting results. Only 4% of the responders said they gambled more once the pandemic hit. 51% stuck to previous gambling patterns, and 7% reported gambling less than before. On the other hand, 38% said they didn’t gamble at all.
Out of those who did gamble, 59% were men, 77% reported staying at home more often, and 13% were at moderate risk of developing a gambling problem or had one already. 7% of participants were in the low-risk gambling group, 4% were at a moderate-risk, and 5% were problem gamblers.
After analyzing data, the researchers associated increased gambling with younger age, more time spent at home, higher alcohol consumption, higher severity of gambling problem, history of self-exclusion, and psychological distress.
Conclusion: While the pandemic didn’t affect most players, a small sub-group increased the amount of time and money they spent online. Those people were more at risk of developing gambling problems.
Second Survey: 9 Months into the Pandemic
When autumn arrived in Sweden, a new wave of COVID cases affected the country, which affected gambling patterns.
This time around, 6% of the survey’s participants reported gambling more. But only 4% gambled less – a slight change from the previous study. However, 54% said their gambling patterns remained the same, and 36% didn’t gamble at all.
10% of the responders reported being at moderate risk of developing problems or were problem gamblers already. That is also a tad higher than the results of the first survey.
In addition to that, a of small group players reported they tried new types of gambling in the past year. That includes online horse betting, online casinos, and online sports betting (3% each). In addition to that, some checked out online bingo (2%) and online poker (1%) as well.
Conclusion: While gambling patterns only changed a little bit, the fact that in a span of a year the number of people who placed bets increased – many of them with a risk of developing gambling problems – is concerning.
Small but Important Changes
Overall, the study showed that most people didn’t change their gambling patterns all that much. However, there is still room for worry. There is a sub-group of at-risk players who currently find themselves in a very precarious position.
Authorities and online casino regulators must address the issue to prevent the potential increase of problem gambling cases in Sweden and around the globe.