Economic recession affects gambling participation but not problematic gambling: results from a population-based follow-up study

Abstract

In October 2008, Iceland experienced the fastest and deepest financial crisis recorded in modern times when all three major banks went bankrupt in less than 2 weeks. The purpose of this follow-up study is to examine potential changes in participation in 12 different gambling types and in problem gambling before (time 1; year 2007) and after (time 2; year 2011) the economic collapse in 2008. The time between the first and second wave of data collection was 3.5 years. In total, 1,531 participants took part in the study, 688 males and 843 females.

There was a considerable increase in past year gambling behavior from 2007 to 2011, mostly due to increased participation in lotto (National lotto and Viking lotto) but also in bingo, monthly lotteries (class lotteries with at least monthly draw) and scratch tickets. Only EGMs (electronic gaming machines) participation declined significantly between the two timepoints. Examining past year problematic gambling figures revealed that there were no changes in the prevalence figures between the year 2007 (1.2%) and 2011 (1.1%). Further examination revealed that those who reported financial difficulties due to the recession were more likely to buy lotto- or scratch tickets during the recession than those who were not financially affected by the crisis.

These findings remained after controlling for background variables and baseline gambling activity (gambling in 2007). Overall, the findings of the follow-up study suggest that when people are experiencing financial difficulties during economic recessions, the possibility to improve their financial situation by winning large jackpots with low initial stakes becomes more enticing.

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