Gambling and the COVID-19 Pandemic


Gambling is the act of wagering something of value on a random event. It involves three components: risk, consideration, and prize. In addition, there is the element of strategy, wherein a gambler discounts the value of an opportunity in order to win something else of equal or greater value.

This study is an investigation of gambling patterns during a period of acute pandemic. Specifically, it analyzed gambling patterns in the Swedish market during the period of COVID-19. The aims of the present analysis are to assess the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19 on online gambling during the acute phase of the crisis. Furthermore, it focuses on the characteristics of recent online gamblers.

Using a structured web survey dataset, the present study examined the occurrence of gambling during COVID-19. For this purpose, past-30-day gambling patterns were compared to non-30-day past-year gambling patterns. Moreover, gender, age, self-exclusion, employment status, and other demographics were categorized as descriptive data. Compared to the previous study’s sample of land-based casino, bingo, and poker users, the present analysis includes online gamblers.

Results from this study indicate that the COVID-19 crisis was more likely to affect online gambling than land-based gambling. However, this finding does not support the notion that living conditions could be associated with gambling patterns. Instead, respondents reported higher gambling problems among those who had recently participated in sports betting, but did not differ from those who had not.

Although the results of this study show that the COVID-19 crisis had a significant effect on gambling, it does not support the notion that it was a harbinger of a pandemic. To that end, the study’s results call for more detailed analyses in a longitudinal study design. Further, it is unclear whether or not the population of recent gamblers is representative of a population of regular or irregular gamblers.

The present analysis is part of a larger study focusing on online gambling in Sweden. The aims of the overall study were to conduct a larger number of analyses of online gambling behavior. As a result, the sample was relatively large, including gamblers who were engaged in a variety of gambling types. Since gambling behavior can vary dramatically over time, a cross-sectional study design would have been too simplistic. Moreover, objective measures of gambling are challenging to obtain with such a large number of operators.

While self-reports of gambling are more reliable than objective measures, they cannot provide a solid basis for determining the typical pattern of irregular gambling. Nevertheless, the data are interesting. Among the most noteworthy findings of this study is the increased incidence of problem gambling among younger, male gamblers. And although it was not the main purpose of this study, the study’s results did show that the most important indicator was the presence of a reputable betting company.

The results of this study are valuable in assessing the effects of COVID-19 on gambling. However, future follow-up studies should explore new measures of gambling behavior.