Svenska Spel RG research shows need for focus on youth

9 October 2019

Attendees of Svenska Spel's annual responsible gaming research day heard that player protection measures must be tailored to different age groups, and that mandatory limits are more effective than voluntary in ensuring players can gamble safely.

The research day is an event organised by Svenska Spel's Independent Research Council, which sees academics and treatment providers provide updates on studies of gambling harms and player protection measures.

Most notably, it saw the Swedish Public Health Agency speak out in favour of developing age-specific player protection strategies, and Stockholm University psychologist Dr Patrik Lindner dismiss the effectiveness of operators offering voluntary limits.

The Public Health Agency published the latest results of its long-running Swelogs study, which has tracked the relationship between gambling, money and health since 2008. The current edition revealed suggested that problem gambling was growing, with around half of those that were suffering from some form of problem in 2018 having either not gambled, or not displayed any sort of problem in the 2015 edition.

However, researcher Ulla Romild said it was possible to predict which users which did not yet have gambling problems would develop one.

“To a certain extent, it is possible to predict which players will develop ongoing gambling problems," Romlid explained. "I thought it was clearer than I expected."

Sara Lindholm, chair of the Swedish Games Research Council, said the results showed gambling habits for younger players were more likely to evolve, and for them to develop problems, than for older individuals.

“They show, among other things, that younger people have a tendency to move between different levels of risk behavior over time, while older people stay at the same level,” Lindholm said.

Romlid suggested that this could mean that future preventative efforts should be tailored for different age groups.

Lindner, meanwhile, presented the results of his investigation into responsible gaming controls used by operators, revealing that there was little evidence of the measures being effective. He instead argued in favour of mandatory limits being imposed on players. Last week, Åland Islands-based operator Paf cited Lindner’s research as evidence of the necessity of its mandatory loss limit, which the company lowered from €30,000 to €25,000.

Lindner added that even when an operator does introduce an effective safeguard for players, this could simply see players migrating to sites without such measures in place.

Lindholm said that ultimately cross-sector collaboration was vital to ensure effective responsible gaming measures could be rolled out across all operators. Most important, however, was treatment tailored to suit the needs of each person, she added.

"Individualised treatment, based on the history of risk and each person's health factors, is the future," he said.

Svenska Spel’s independent research council was created in 2010. The council has spent SEK5m (£411,375/€457,830/$502,654) each year on research on gambling and preventive measures against gambling problems, for a combined total of more than SEK40m. In 2018, Svenska Spel decided to allocate an additional SEK30m to fund new research.

Svenska Spel chief executive Patrik Hofbauer said every customer that became addicted to gambling showed a failing on the operator's part.

"Therefore, we constantly review our products to make them safer and better," he explained. "This research is crucial to ability to continue to improve."