Finnish Study Links Problem Gambling, Benefits, Unemployment

September 29, 2021
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A new Finnish study says it has found a clear link between harmful gambling behaviours, people receiving social benefits and the unemployed.

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A new Finnish study says it has found a clear link between harmful gambling behaviours, people receiving social benefits and the unemployed.

The National Institute for Health and Welfare's (THL) Gambling Survey found 31 percent of respondents exhibiting at-risk or problem gambling behaviour had received at least one social security benefit from the Social Insurance Institute of Finland (Kela) in 2016.

Of the people not receiving Kela, 21 percent of the study respondents showed problem or at-risk behaviours, it said.

THL specialist researcher Tiina Latvala found the results worrying, as she said money lost gambling is “vital” for most people receiving social benefits.

Latvala feared that if people are gambling away the last of their money it will create social, health and wellbeing issues, as well as potentially driving people to commit suicide.

“This is good for policymakers to consider,” Latvala said, as “it is staggering to see that some of this money comes from the disadvantaged, in addition to how harmful gambling is linked to Kela's social benefits.”

The findings follow mounting concerns about sports and culture’s dependence on gambling income, which led to the science and culture minister backing a move to transfer income from gambling monopoly Veikkaus to the general government budget by 2024.

Additionally, concerns around problem gambling rates led to the Finnish Ministry of the Interior making pandemic-related spending restrictions for online games permanent earlier this year.

Kela income support is available to individuals or families unable to pay for daily expenses.

Last year, it was estimated that around 4.4m Finns, nearly 80 percent of the country, received some kind of financial support from Kela, according to Mikko Kautto, the managing director of the Finnish Centre for Pensions.

Problem gambling rates were also more common among unemployed people, with 16 percent of people on unemployment benefits classified as problem or at-risk gamblers.

Harmful gambling behaviours were also exhibited by respondents out of work due to illness, with 22 percent of them receiving disability pensions and 19 percent of people receiving sick pay classified as at-risk or problem gamblers.

These links between problem gambling rates, unemployment and receiving government benefits “remained strong” even when gender, age, family background, education and disposable income were taken into account, according to THL.

THL says the findings complement previous research showing a significant portion of gambling money comes from problem gamblers.

The study used THL's Gambling Survey, which was answered by 7,186 people. The study data was gathered by Statistics Finland in 2017.

It is unclear how the study will have an impact on policy-making decisions in Finland, as the long-anticipated Lottery Act amendment was submitted to parliament on September 23.

The amendments contain wholesale changes to the country’s gambling regulation but maintain the country’s exclusive rights model.

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