Financial recovery from problem gambling: problem gamblers’ experiences of social assistance and other financial support

By Maria Heiskanen.

The objective of this article is to understand problem gamblers’ experiences of recovery from financial difficulties caused by problem gambling. Specifically, financial social assistance from public services is considered. A sample of 17 interviews with Finnish self-identified, treatment-seeking problem gamblers from various financial positions was analyzed qualitatively using thematic content analysis. The analysis revealed four themes. The first theme examines how the financial concerns of problem gamblers were left unaddressed by treatment professionals. The second theme discusses the rationalizations behind not applying for or not receiving financial social assistance from public services. The reasons behind not applying for financial social assistance were related to financial stability and perceived pride derived from surviving independently (loss of pride when not being able to survive independently). Not receiving assistance despite applying for it was mostly because of their income having been assessed as adequate by the social services. Third theme examines receiving financial social assistance during, or after, problematic gambling. Participants living on welfare often spent their benefits on gambling in the hopes of an increased income. Recovering lower-income problem gamblers also received financial social assistance for living expenses or for treatment. Fourth, non-governmental and more controlling forms of financial support were (1) financial assistance within private safety nets, (2) support for over-indebtedness from an NGO, or (3) private person/official authority taking control over problem gamblers’ financial matters. The socio-economic background factors are important to address when designing financial and other support for problem gamblers. The results of this study provide useful information for future survey studies of the topic.