Finland Gambling Grows Without Increased Gambling Problems

Over the past four years, online gambling participation in Finland increased by almost 13 percentage points without any related increase in overall problem gambling rates.

A new research released last month by the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) questioned nearly 4k residents on their gambling behaviour during 2019, a follow-up to similar studies carried out every four years since 2007. A second report will discuss the public views and perceptions about gambling later this year.

The prevalence rate for gambling in 2019 was 78.4 percent, down from 80 percent in 2015. The number of Finns who played regular or many times a week fell to 7 percent by 1.9 points, while those who played once a week fell to 22.2 percent by almost three points.

Of the Finns who played last year, those who played with the state-run Veikkaus monopoly fell 1.5 points to 77.9 percent, while the number that funded an internationally approved alternative online increased 2.1 points to 5.4 percent.    All told, the amount that did so online from last year’s Finns was 36.3 percent, up 12.7 points from 2015.

Veikkaus accounted for 87.5 percent of all gambling spending in 2019, but in terms of online betting this figure fell to 83.6 percent. The three most widely cited reasons for patronising foreign sites were: better odds and rates of return, higher possible winnings and a broader range of items.

Despite the rise in online gaming, problem gambling rates fell 0.3 points to 3 percent, while the more alarming rate of incidence of pathological gambling was flat. In addition, the number of those deemed ‘at risk’ of being pathological gamblers dropped from 15 percent to 10.7percent.

Online gamblers were more likely to exhibit problem gambling activity but these individuals were also much more likely to (a) play several days a week, (b) use at least four different gambling items, and (c) play both online and offline, indicating that gaming participation is more of a symptom than the cause of their problematic behaviour.

In reality, individuals who played slot machines in the offline mini-casinos of the monopoly registered substantially higher problem gambling prevalence than those who played slots on the Veikkaus platform, in terms of Veikkaus’ offering.

In another bit of irony, the prevalence of problem gambling was highest among weekly gamblers whose habits included visiting the PAF website, the gambling monopoly in the autonomous Swedish-speaking Åland Islands of Finland. In recent years, PAF has taken a number of steps to reduce their reliance on gambling whales, despite the initial impact on the firm’s bottom line.

The report reported that only 2.5 percent of gamblers accounted for 50 percent of the total gambling expenditure in 2019, while 17.8 percent of gamblers accounted for 80 percent of the total gambling expenditure. Overall, average weekly spending was a modest €10.33, with €15.60 spent by men and €4.47 spent by women.