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Norwegian gambling habits

In 2005, every Norwegian over the age of 15 gambled almost NOK 11,500 on registered Norwegian games of chance. Now, SINTEF Health Research is to survey how many Norwegians are addicted to gambling. For the first time in this country, the researchers will also be asking gamblers’ families and friends what they think.

The study will also be the first to demonstrate whether there is a relationship in the Norwegian population between being dependent on Internet computer games and problems with playing for money.

These days, 10,000 Norwegian citizens are finding a questionnaire by SINTEF Health Research in their post-boxes. The form has been sent to a random sample of the population aged between16 and 74.

The main focus of the survey is cash gambling, ranging from scratchcards and Lotto to one-armed bandits and Internet poker.

“For the survey to offer a true picture of Norwegian gambling habits, it is important that as many as possible should complete the questionnaire, no matter whether they play often, seldom or never at all, says project manager Anita Øren of SINTEF Health Research.

Is the problem on the increase?

The Norwegian Gaming Board is financing the population study of gambling addiction, which is a follow-up of a similar study that was carried out in 2002. An important aim of the study is to find out whether people’s gambling problems have increased in scope since then.

In 2002, the study came to the conclusion that 49,000 persons aged between 15 and 74 either had, or had previously had, a serious gambling problem.

“Since then, the gross turnover of the Norwegian gambling market has risen by 25 percent. There is also Internet gambling, which is not subject to controls. The authorities wish to see how this affects gambling addiction at population level”, says Norwegian Gaming Board director Atle Hamar.

When the previous study was performed in 2002, the gross turnover of Norway’s regulated gaming industry was more than NOK 20 billion. The Board does not have all the figure for 2006 ready yet, but in 2005, gross turnover was NOK 42.5 billion, which means that everyone in Norway from the age of 15 staked an average of NOK 11,402 in that year.

Norwegian also gambled for at least NOK 4 billion on unregulated Internet gaming in 2005, a figure that has roughly doubled since 2003.

Looking at the family too

Although the comparison with 2002 is a central aspect of the current study, the survey includes a number of questions that did not form part of the previous version.

“Our study is the first that will also include the families of people with a gambling addiction. It will show how the lives of these persons are affected by the problem – for example whether conflicts arise within the family and whether family members experience physical or psychological problems”, says Anita Øren.

The previous study, which was performed by the Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research, showed that certain groups are overrepresented among problem gamblers; men, young people under the age of 25 and persons from non-Norwegian ethnic backgrounds.

Fewer emergency calls

Both politicians and the medical profession regard gambling as a social problem in Norway today. Addicts and their families have a helpline that they can call for advice and help – the Helpline for Gambling Addicts. Helpline traffic statistics from 2006 show that the number of calls fell to 1792, from 2133 the previous year.

The whole of the reduction in Helpline traffic occurred only after the use of banknotes in one-armed bandits was forbidden on July 1st last year. However, more and more people are ringing the Helpline because they have problems with games with non-monetary prizes on the Internet. This time, therefore, the population survey will also ask questions about how people behave on the Internet.

Psychiatrists and psychologists on the team

SINTEF’s epidemiological research community is carrying out the survey. Epidemiology is the study of the causes and spread of disease, and epidemiologists often perform studies of whole populations.

In the course of this survey, SINTEF will be collaborating closely with psychiatrists and psychologists who have specialised in gambling addiction. These experts have helped to draw up the questions in the questionnaire and will also provide expertise in the evaluation and discussion of the results.

Aase Dragland | alfa
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