Lindner P, Forsström D, Jonsson J, Berman AH, Carlbring P
Front Public Health 8 (-) 554542 [2020-09-29; online 2020-09-29]
Introduction: The COVID-19 outbreak will likely have a public health impact beyond immediate disease transmission. Little is known about whether social distancing and other societal changes has provoked an increase in gambling, whether decreased betting opportunities due to paused sports events spurred gamblers to transition to online casino gambling, or whether any of these factors have had an impact on problem gambling. Methods: Data on lookup queries against the Swedish Gambling Paus registry, logging all initiated gambling sessions by all licensed gambling providers, from 2019-01-01 (start of registry) to 2020-04-08 (well into the first phase of the outbreak) were analyzed using TBATS time series forecasting to estimate trends after the first domestic COVID-19 death. Obfuscated data on daily total wagered and deposited amounts, split by modality (casino or betting, and low and high intensity, respectively) for the equivalent period were supplied by a licensed online gambling provider. Results: Total gambling activity decreased by 13.29% during the first phase of the outbreak compared to forecast. Analyses of online gambling data revealed that although betting decreased substantially in synchrony with a slight increase in online casino gambling, there was no increase in likely problematic, high-intensity gambling and neither did total online gambling increase. Conclusions: This first, preliminary study revealed no increase in Swedish gambling activity, total or specifically online, in the first phase of the COVID-19 outbreak. Future research should examine whether pandemic-induced transitioning between gambling modalities and/or increased participation in gambling, leads to long-term effects on prevalence of problem gambling.