Andersson MJ, Balem M, Håkansson A
Public Health 211 (-) 14-20 [2022-08-18; online 2022-08-18]
The impact of COVID-19 on gambling behavior and the gambling industry itself has been widely speculated. Prior studies have shown how boredom, social isolation, poor mental health, and financial hardships, all of which have been associated with COVID-19, can aggravate problem gambling behaviors in patients with gambling disorders while also luring newcomers. Few studies have used methods other than self-report to assess longitudinal behavioral changes in gambling behavior before versus during the pandemic. The present study addresses this gap by using an interrupted time series approach on data obtained from the Swedish Gambling Authority measuring taxation on gambling vendors' revenue between January 2019 and November 2021. March, June, and October 2020 were chosen as interruption points as they correspond to the pandemic's commencement, the return of elite sports, and the second wave of cases in Sweden, respectively. We hypothesized that the pandemic would be associated with both temporary changes for select gambling types and long-term increases in online gambling. Results revealed the pandemic's onset was associated with transient effects at each point of interruption, as well as long-term upward trends in total gambling and commercial online gambling, excluding horse betting and the state-owned operator for online casinos and betting. The present study's findings, although consistent with the theory that gambling activity could increase during the pandemic, contradict previous studies that found no changes or a decrease from pre-COVID-19 levels. Findings indicate that the pandemic and Sweden's reaction to it were associated with increased use of some gambling products.