In Europe, the prevalence of gambling disorders in the general population ranges from 0.15 to 6.6%. Professional athletes are known for having risk factors for addictive behaviors, such as young age or sensation seeking, though no study has yet tried to evaluate the prevalence of gambling and gambling disorders among this specific population. The goals of this study were to estimate the prevalence of gambling, problematic or not, among European professional athletes and to explore the factors that are associated with gambling practice and gambling problems in professional athletes.
A self-completion questionnaire was specifically designed for this study. The questionnaires were distributed by European Union athletes to professional ice hockey, rugby, handball, basketball, football, indoor football, volleyball, and cricket teams in Spain, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Socio-demographic variables (age, sex, education, marital and parental status, sport, country of birth, and country of practice), variables linked to gambling (gambling habits, screening of gambling problems with the Lie/Bet questionnaire, and gambling related cognitions), and impulsive behavior data (urgency, premeditation, perseverance, and sensation seeking [UPPS]-Short Form questionnaire) were gathered. There were 1,236 questionnaires filled out.
The percentage of professional athletes that had gambled at least once during the previous year was 56.6%. The prevalence of problem gambling, current or past, was 8.2%. A certain number of variables were associated with the gambling status. In particular, betting on one's own team (OR = 4.1, CI95% [1.5–11.5]), betting online (OR = 2.9, CI95% [1.6–5.4]), gambling regularly (OR = 4.0, CI95% [2.1–7.6]), and having a high positive urgency score (OR = 1.5, CI95% [1.3–1.7]) were associated with gambling problems, current or past, among professional athletes. Professional athletes are particularly exposed to both gambling and problem gambling.