Front Psychiatry 11 (-) 611939 [2020-12-17; online 2020-12-17]
Background: Concerns have been raised about increased gambling problems during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, particularly in settings with high online gambling and risks of migration from land-based to riskier online-based gambling types. However, few non-self-reported data sources are hitherto available. The present study aimed to assess changes in the online- and land-based gambling markets in Sweden during the first months affected by the societal impact of COVID-19. Methods: Data were derived from national authority data describing monthly taxations of all licensed Swedish gambling operators, whose monthly tax payments are directly based on gambling revenue. Subdivisions of the gambling market were followed monthly from before COVID-19 onset in Sweden (mainly February 2020) through June 2020, when the sports market was restarted after COVID-19 lockdown. Results: Overall revenue-based taxations in the licensed gambling decreased markedly from February to March, but stabilized onto an overall modest decrease through June. Commercial online casino/betting, despite some decrease in March, was maintained on a relatively stable level through June. However, within this category, horse betting increased steeply during the pandemic but returned to prepandemic levels later during the period. The state-owned operator in betting/online casino decreased markedly throughout the pandemic. The remaining commercial operators, mainly in online casino and online betting, demonstrated no change during the pandemic and ended on a June level 14% above the February level. Throughout the pandemic, the smaller restaurant casinos decreased markedly, while major state-owned casinos also closed entirely. State-owned lotteries and electronic gambling machines decreased markedly but were rapidly normalized to prepandemic levels. Conclusions: Commercial online gambling operators' revenues remained stable throughout the pandemic, despite the dramatic lockdown in sports. Thus, chance-based online games may have remained a strong actor in the gambling market despite the COVID-19 crisis, in line with previous self-report data. A sudden increase in horse betting during the sports lockdown and its decrease when sports reopened confirm the picture of possible COVID-19-related migration between gambling types, indicating a volatility with potential impact on gambling-related public health.