Scandinavians are a force to be reckoned in the world of online gambling, and Swedish players are feared far and wide, with two of them making the final table at this year’s WSOPE. But this could be too much of a good thing, as the Swedish National Institute of Public Health has just published the results of a study on online gambling that shows an alarmingly high index of problem gambling.

According to the Gaming Intelligence Group, the year-long study was carried out in 2006 on a group of 16,500 adults, and it aimed “to identify the size of the online poker market in Sweden, to build a profile of online poker players and their level of problem gambling, and to gauge the effect of the launch of Svenska Spel’s poker site.”

The results were very interesting, and did indeed shed light on the Swedish online poker community, but the real shocker was that 27% of Swedish online poker players were classified as problem gamblers (versus 2.1% of online players who did not play poker). Now, this is a rather large percentage, and one that is likely to alarm the authorities and make them consider taking measures like Norway.

In view of this staggeringly high percentage of problem gamblers, the Gaming Intelligence Group reviewed the results of the study with the cooperation of Marie Risbeck, the research coordinator on gambling addiction projects at the National Institute of Public Health, and discovered that the criteria for “problem gambler” were rather easy to meet. They reported that in order to be classified as a problem gambler, research participants only had to have played online in the previous twelve months and have twice in that time experienced any one of the following:

– Attempted to reduce their level of gambling
– Felt restless or annoyed at not being able to gamble
– Lied about how much they gambled

Given the age and demographics of the majority of Swedish online players, all of those feelings can be seen as a natural display of status concern, and the first two can even be appropriate to anyone with a serious hobby or sports interest. Ms. Risbeck agreed with the Gaming Intelligence Group’s assessment, and announced that a more comprehensive study is expected to run in 2008, which will aim to address better the definition and identification of problem gambling.

Hopefully the more conservative side of Swedish authorities will be able to wait for the 2009 results before launching into legal action to curb “problem gambling”!

In case you are curious, these are some of the other results thrown by this research:

– Between 126,000 and 157,000 adults played online poker on a monthly basis during 2006. (95% accuracy)
– Male online poker players outnumbered females by a ratio of 10:1
– The common average age of online players is 25
– Only a very small proportion of online players were over 40 years old
– A majority of the interviewed poker players live with their parents, in a dorm or a collective house.
– Poker players tend to run their own business or be students
– They also seem inclined to a high alcohol consumption and to play games to a large extent.

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