The Majority of Swedish Gambling Addicts Are Now Women

Woman Stressed with Head In Hands

This week a report from the Swedish public health authority, the Folkhalsomyndigheten, found that there are more female problem gamblers in the country than their male counterparts, for the first time ever.

This signals that there is longer a gender gap among problem gamblers in the Nordic state.

Contrastingly, in the UK, men are still more likely to be classified as problem gamblers.

So, what is shaping these figures in both countries? In this article, we’ll look at the reasons why more women are developing gambling addictions in Sweden, and how this compares with gambling activity in the UK.

The Report – Key Findings

The results of the Swedish health authority’s comprehensive study, which can be found here in Swedish, were published this week.

One of the survey’s most suprising results was how much the number of female problem gamblers had increased since the last analysis, which was published in 2015.

Below you can find some of the key findings of the study, in relation to problem gambling:

  • 58% of respondents had engaged in some form of real-money gambling in the past year
  • The number of problem gamblers fell from 134k, in 2015, to 101k in 2018
  • The number of gambling addicts, however, rose by nearly half (from 31k to 45k)
  • Almost two thirds (64%) of Swedish gambling addicts in 2018 were women, a huge increase from just 18% in 2015

Speaking about the results, Ulla Romid, the investigator behind the report said that it was ‘worrying’ to see the rise in serious gambling problems in Sweden and that ‘we see an increase among women’.

Why Are More Women Gambling in Sweden?

Woman Using Laptop in Bed

In other parts of the report, the increase of online gambling was highlighted. This is also thought to be one reason why more women are gambling now than before.

Problem gambling rates in Sweden grew most strongly for those who played online slots, poker and other casino games. However, the report also found that whilst men were more likely to play more poker and bet more on sports, the gap closed when looking at lotteries, slot machines and bingo.

The marketing of such gambling activities (lotteries, slot machines and bingo), therefore, could be to blame for the increase in female problem gamblers. Many of these games are targeted at women, with appealing colours, characters and themes.

Moreover, bingo and online casino adverts often emphasize the community feel of online casinos and their ability to allow players to escape the humdrum of regular life. Think, for example, of the bingo advertisements which push the narrative of housewives winning from their own kitchen.

Are Women More Open to Admitting a Problem?

The results of the report could also be skewered, as it’s likely that women are more forthcoming about their gambling habits and more likely to seek help than men.

Professor Anders Hakansson, a specialist in gambling addiction from Lund University, told Radio Sweden that ‘women who do seek treatment are more likely to report online casino gambling than men do.’

How Do Sweden’s Female Gamblers Compare to the UK?

Whilst the number of female problem gamblers may be rising in Sweden, the UK Gambling Commission reports that, in Britain, men are still far more likely to have gambling problems.

In the UK, 0.9% of men are likely to have gambling issues, in contrast to 0.1% of women.

So why is this the case in the UK? An article published by the BBC last year suggested that the gender disparity in problem gamblers in Britain could be due to sports betting.

In general, men are more likely to place regular sports bets than women. Moreover, men are exposed to far more sportsbook adverts than women.

Men and Sports Betting in the UK

Football Match on TV

In October 2018, a study found that 95% of ad-breaks during live football matches featured one gambling advert. Futhermore, it is estimated that British men will watch around 20,000 hours of televised sport in their lifetime. Women, in comparison, will watch about half of that amount.

In 2019, a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ gambling advertising ban came into force in the UK. This meant that no betting adverts were to be shown during live sports coverage before the watershed (21:00 pm), from five minutes before the event begins until five minutes after it.

The aim of this ban was to limit exposure to gambling adverts, both for children and for adults.

The UKGC’s last problem gambling report focussed on figures from 2016. This means that we will have to wait until the next report to see if the ban has helped to reduce the number male problem gamblers in the UK and also to see whether or not women are still the minority of problem gamblers in the UK.

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