Summary of problem gambling research

Spelberoende – Forskning för en hållbarEarlier this week the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS) presented a summary report on problem gambling research. The report is authored by Jessika Svensson (The Swedish National Institute of Public Health), Anders Tengström (Karolinska institutet) and myself.

The report (in Swedish) summarizes research on problem gambling in Sweden and internationally. The report identifies important research gaps that need to be filled. A general conclusion is that an evidence based gambling policy is to some extent already possible. However, in order to develop gambling studies in Sweden and fill the gaps in research a new funding structure is needed, one that would facilitate long-term strategic building up of knowledge about gambling and problem gambling. The report is included in the series “Research in brief”, published by FAS.

Bibliographic info:

  • Binde, Per, Jessika Svensson & Anders Tengström. 2013. Spelberoende: Forskning för en hållbar spelpolitik. [Problem gambling: Research for a sustainable gambling policy] (Forskning i korthet, nr. 2.) Stockholm: Forskningsrådet för Arbetsliv och Socialvetenskap.

Download the report here

The report was presented at a seminar in Stockholm on March 19. Click here to watch a video from the seminar.

Press coverage include this article from Sveriges Radio International.



    • Tim Golden on May 10, 2013 at 1:34 pm
    • Reply

    Hi. I just had a coherent realization that the gambling behavior carries an antrhropological motive: pattern matching as a means of higher survival. Even the fisherman with a rod and reel exhibits this behavior, and the good fisherman is accomplished in his pattern matching ability. Still, for those at the roulette wheel they attempt to find the pattern, and this is possibly an indication that their natural instinct goes underutilized in modern society. Even the best pattern matcher may be susceptible to a roulette wheel since it is a very challenging pattern. Once the fixation is set up then it carries itself on, and these people can then be labelled OCD for their unfortunate behavior of becoming addicted gamblers. What drives fixation is one partial problem. Another orthogonal component is whether the pattern matching exercise that the brain needs are being engaged in their lives otherwise. We were once defined by our tool making abilities, yet who in the modern era is making their own tools? So are we still humans? Such awareness is what brings me onto your site and you are the first thing that comes up when I research the anthropology of gambling.

    Likely this is known, though I would say it is little publicized in my locality, and here in New Hampshire, USA gambling is about to become legal.

    TimGolden BSEE AB1AH PolySign 1368189246s

    1. Hi Tim! The analogy between sport fishing and gambling is apt. Both activities involve positive reinforcement on a variable ratio schedule and a mix of perceived skill and luck. As you say, our brains are hard-wired to discern patterns, which is an evolutionary advantage for mankind but on the individual level and in some circumstances can lead to adverse consequences.

      Per B.

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