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THL research: Half of Finnish gambling spend comes from two percent of gamblers

Problem gambling is more common among low-income groups.

A THL report found that in 2019, a very small group of gamblers was responsible for half of all money spent on gambling in Finland.

Gambling problems are most common among people on low incomes who are unemployed or furloughed.

That's the conclusion of a report into gambling last year from Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.

Underage gambling is quite common, even though the age limit is 18, as the report found that some 41 percent of 15-17-year-olds had gambled.

Researchers conducted the study via phone interviews in which they reached 3,994 people. They were asked to estimate how much money they had spent over the course of 2019 for gambling.

Just 2.5 percent of respondents were responsible for half the total sum of money survey participants said they spent on games of chance. Of those, three out of four had a gambling problem or were at risk of a gambling problem.

THL researcher Anne Salonen said that respondents' own evaluation of their spending was often lower than the real amount.

"When you ask people about their own gambling, they typically under-estimate it," said Salonen. "Especially those who gamble a lot can leave things out or play down their gambling."

Risky gambling is declining

The report says that gambling problems are often linked to other issues. For example a friend or relative having a gambling problem increases the likelihood that an individual might have a gambling problem.

Those who played non-gambling digital games on a console or PC were more likely than others to have a gambling problem.

Similar research was conducted in 2007 and 2015. In 2007 some 4.2 percent of respondents who gambled were responsible for half the total amount declared by respondents as spent on gambling.

In 2015 the equivalent figure was 5.2 percent. The first results from the 2019 study were published in the spring, but the report published on Tuesday has the full results.

"The results published in the spring showed that risky gambling has declined in Finland, which is a positive development," said Salonen. "It's concerning that a small group of gamblers lose and experience gambling problems more than before."