Funding of gambling studies and its impact on research

Gambling is a lucrative source of revenue for governments, since it is capable of producing revenue outside “normal” taxation. The global gambling expansion that has occurred within last few decades has not always been in the best interests of the citizenry, but it has been more a result of government–industry partnerships to raise public income (Adams, 2008; Nelson & Mason, 2007; Orford, 2011). Social concern about gambling has been replaced with responsibility for personal choice (Panasitti & Schull, 1994; Nikkinen & Marionneau, 2014).

Much gambling consumption is, however, involuntary, and gambling is one of the “coercive commodities” (Young & Markham, 2017). Those who gamble excessively contribute to gambling taxes disproportionally. Up to 60% of the proceeds of gambling are collected from those categorised as “problem” gamblers (Schull, 2012). Decreasing gambling-related harm therefore also decreases profits, since the total consumption model (TCM) appears to apply to gambling (Rossow, 2019; Sulkunen et al., 2019). Link to the article

Citation: Nikkinen, J. (2019). Funding of gambling studies and its impact on research. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Is there a need for personal gambling licences? [open-access article].

Abstract: Licensing is currently the most popular option among regulators for controlling gambling operations. However, approximately 20% of operators are still public monopolies. Many forms of gambling (especially lotteries) are government operated even in countries with a licensing system. This creates an inherent conflict of interest, given that government is supposed to protect the wellbeing of its citizenry and to reap the benefits of gambling at the same time. At least in the gambling monopoly, however, addressing the unavoidable harm that results from gambling should be a priority. Industry self-regulation and reliance on “responsible gambling” rely too much on individuals to control their own gambling. It is suggested in this contribution that it is possible to provide more comprehensive consumer protection, recognising both the duty of governments to take care of their own citizens and the fact that industry self-regulation is not enough. Precommitment cards have been tested in various contexts, and have shown promise in terms of providing tools for individuals to restrict their own gambling. However, given the known shortcomings such as allowing the use of other cards that are not one’s own, and other venues, it is clear that in themselves they do not guarantee effective prevention. Personal licensing is therefore explored as a move forward in this literature-based discussion. Although the system may be applicable to other contexts, the focus is on the Nordic countries. Given that the underlying justification for gambling monopolies is to control gambling-related harm, in the cases of Finland and Norway licensing could be combined with loyalty cards introduced by monopoly operators. This would provide a feasible alternative to current practices of responsible gambling. Article available online

Reference: Nikkinen, J. (2018). Is there a need for personal gambling licences? Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 2019, 36(2) 108–124. DOI: 10.1177/1455072518811029

Gambling – No ordinary commodity [open-access article]

Gambling is no ordinary commodity. As a phenomenon it is fabricated and learned socially and culturally. In order to spend money on a game, humans must not only learn the logic of the game (“four cherries in a row are worth more than three hats”) but they must also be internalised in a (il)logical bundle of justifications in terms of the value of doing so (“it is fun”; “I will become rich”, or “If I play enough times, the likelihood of winning increases”). In this issue of Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs the latter circumstance of a cultural internalisation is demonstrated by Egerer and Marionneau’s (2019) article on cultures and the convenience of gambling among Finnish and French gamblers. Their study shows that the activity has a different cultural position in the two countries: the internalising into gambling belongs in Finland to the sphere of everyday life, but in France it is connected with the peculiarities of the casino environment (see also Marionneau, 2015). This makes gambling such an intriguing case for cultural studies.
In many countries, lottery games and other gambling activities were first provided and handled by civil society associations in order to collect incomes for their work. This is indeed a practical way of generating money: readers are likely, for example, to be familiar with school events where there is a lottery, and the revenues go to a school trip or some other venture that supports the children’s school atmosphere or educational path.
When a need arose by jurisdictions to regulate gambling more thoroughly, it was primarily for fiscal reasons (Sulkunen et al., 2018). In addition, there were a string of issues attached to this question of regulation: who was to gain revenues from gambling and how much; who was allowed to play; and where should the gambling activities take place? The bigger the gambling industry grew, the more questions followed – and appeared to have been overlooked historically.
Now that the global gambling market is worth almost 500 billion USD gross yield (Statista, 2018), there is a great societal demand for making gambling policy a more integrated object of sociological, social political, and political science research. This thematic issue of NAD tries to answer this need by filling a small part of the gap in the Nordic literature.
Article available online

Reference: Hellman, M. (2019). Gambling – No ordinary commodity. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 36(2), 63-65.

Gamblers’ (mis-)interpretations of Problem Gambling Severity Index items: Ambiguities in qualitative accounts from the Swedish longitudinal gambling study [open-access article]

Abstract: The Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) is a screening instrument frequently used to identify risk and problem gambling. Even though the PGSI has good psychometric properties, it still produces a large proportion of misclassifications. Aims: To explore possible reasons for misclassifications in problem gambling level by analysing previously classified moderate-risk gamblers’ answers to the PGSI items, in relation to their own current and past gambling behaviours.
Methods: Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 19 participants reporting no negative consequences from gambling. They were asked the PGSI questions within an eight-year time frame (2008 to 2016). Ambiguous answers to PGSI items were subject to content analysis.
Results: Several answers to the PGSI items contained ambiguities and misinterpretations, making it difficult to assess to what extent their answers actually indicated any problematic gambling over time. The item about feelings of guilt generated accounts rather reflecting self-recrimination over wasting money or regretting gambling as a meaningless or immoral activity. The item concerning critique involved mild interpretations such as being ridiculed for buying lottery tickets or getting comments for being boring. Similar accounts were given by the participants irrespective of initial
endorsement of the items. Other possible reasons for misclassifications were related to recall bias, language difficulties, selective memory, and a tendency to answer one part of the question without taking the whole question into account.
Conclusions: Answers to the PGSI can contain a variety of meanings based on the respondents’ subjective interpretations. Reports of lower levels of harm in the population should thus be interpreted with caution. In clinical settings it is important to combine use of screening instruments with interviews, to be able to better understand gamblers’ perceptions of the gambling behaviour and its negative consequences.
Article available online

Reference: Samuelsson, E., Wennberg, P., & Sundqvist, K. (2019). Gamblers’ (mis-)interpretations of Problem Gambling Severity Index items: Ambiguities in qualitative accounts from the Swedish longitudinal gambling study. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 36(2), 140–160. DOI: 10.1177/1455072519829407

Responsible gambling in practice: A case study of views and practices of Swedish oriented gambling companies [open access research report]

Abstract: The Swedish gambling market faces a major change in legislation that will allow foreign-based companies to apply for a gambling licence in Sweden. A key element in the new legislation are consumer protection measures. The Swedish gambling market is currently divided between licensed companies and non-Swedish-based companies providing online gambling services without a licence in Sweden. How these companies view their responsibility for preventing gambling-related harm and how prepared they are for the new regulations are important questions regarding the new Swedish gambling market. Access full report

Citation: David Forsström & Jenny Cisneros Örnberg. (2018). Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 1–17. DOI: 10.1177/1455072518802492

The total consumption model applied to gambling: Empirical validity and implications for gambling policy (open access article)

Rossow, I. (2018). Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 1-11. doi: 10.1177/1455072518794016

Aim: The total consumption model (TCM) originates from studies of the distribution of alcohol consumption and posits that there is a strong association between the total consumption and the prevalence of excessive/harmful consumption in a population. The policy implication of the TCM is that policy measures which effectively lead to a reduction of the total consumption, will most likely also reduce the extent of harmful consumption and related harms. Problem gambling constitutes a public health issue and more insight into problem gambling at the societal level and a better understanding of how public policies may impact on the harm level, are strongly needed. The aim of
this study was to review the literature pertaining to empirical validity of the TCM with regard to gambling behaviour and problem gambling and, on the basis of the literature review, to discuss the policy implications of the TCM. Methods: The study is based on a literature mapping through systematic searches in literature databases, and forward and backward reference searches.

Results: The literature searches identified a total of 12 empirical studies that examined the total consumption model or provided relevant data. All but one of these studies found empirical support for the TCM; that is, a positive association between population gambling mean and prevalence of excessive or problem gambling. Such associations were found both with cross-sectional data and with longitudinal data. Conclusion: There is a small but fairly consistent literature lending empirical support to the total consumption model. An important policy implication is that interventions which are successful in reducing overall gambling are likely also to reduce problem gambling incidence. Access full article

A gender perspective on gambling clusters in Sweden using longitudinal data

AIMS – This study describes five groups of gamblers and changes in their gambling involvement and gambling problems over four years with a particular focus on whether gambling problems among men and women develop differently within the five groups. DESIGN – The study sample is a subset of participants from the Swedish Longitudinal Gambling Study (Swelogs). Six different clusters of past-year gambling, based on frequency of participation in the nine most common forms of gambling in Sweden (lotteries, horses, number games, sports games, bingo, poker, slot machines, casino games or TV contests) were identified in Two-Way Cluster Analysis after the first wave of data collection in 2008/09. There were 2,508 individuals identified in EP1 (n=5,012) who then also participated in waves EP2 and EP3 and were selected for the present analysis. METHODS – Statistical analysis was done in SPSS 22.0 using Pearson’s Chi-Square test of Independence (or Fisher’s Exact test when the requirements or expected frequency were not met for Pearson’s Test), Mann-Whitney U-test and logistic regression. P-values below 0.05 were regarded as significant. RESULTS – Gambling remains gendered in Sweden. Even though the clusters are based on gambling activities, there are differences between men and women within the clusters as regards the gambling participation patterns. CONCLUSIONS – Men and women gamble differently, but they may still be equals in their total experience of gambling and in relation to how their gambling problems develop. All differences need to be taken into consideration when preventive actions or messages are created.