However, with a potential global recession looming and the threat of new pandemics hitting a vulnerable world, it is important that policymakers learn as much as possible about the full immediate and long-term public health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that the studies included in this Research Topic will provide some valuable implications for future research activities in the field of gambling. Gambling disorder is a mental health issue that is becoming increasingly recognized as a major public health concern (Abbott, 2020; Delfabbro and King, 2020; Korn and Shaffer, 1999; Korn et al., 2003; Messerlian et al., 2005; Shaffer and Korn, 2002; van Schalkwyk et al., 2019; Wardle et al., 2019). The prevalence of gambling disorder is estimated to be between 0.12% and 5.8% (Potenza et al., 2019). In the DSM-5, gambling disorder is defined as persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior that can cause clinically significant impairment or distress (APA, 2013). In the general population, different scales that are used to assess problem gambling classify gamblers into non-problem gamblers, low-risk gamblers, moderate-risk gamblers, and problem gamblers (e.g., Problem Gambling Severity Index; Holtgraves, 2008). Individuals who responded to the survey might have experienced less or more severe forms of loneliness and worry and are thus not representative of the population that has common mental disorders.

  • The prolonged presence and spread of COVID-19, accompanied by rapidly changing mandates and recommendations, is expected to further impact the psychological well-being of the general population and to have unprecedented long-term public health consequences [16].
  • Since the onset of COVID-19, these age cohorts were reported to have been more likely to gamble online (Price, 2020), to have gambled more than usual (Abacus Data, 2020; Brown and Hickman, 2020; Gunstone et al., 2020; Health Promotion Agency, 2020a) and to have spent more on gambling (Emond et al., 2022; Jenkinson et al., 2020).
  • Also, the use of responsible gambling features among new gamblers should be examined as well since our study showed a higher degree of severity for that group.
  • The prevalence of gambling disorder is estimated to be between 0.12% and 5.8% (Potenza et al., 2019).
  • The prevalence of at-risk and problem gambling is 1.3% in Sweden (Hofmarcher et al., 2020).

Despite such a huge crisis in the industry, some of the users continued to gamble through their online casinos. According to the UK gambling commission, the most popular games to bet on during covid-19 were virtual sports (40%), poker (38%), and video slots (25%). Increased reflection on finances had not translated into behaviour change for many people taking part in the research, as their lives or financial situations hadn’t been impacted much. Many have still been travelling to and from work, have similar levels of spare time and the same salary as before the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 anxiety and mental health on gambling and gaming problems with social motives as a mediating variable. There is growing consensus in the field that total gambling activity decreased during the early stages of the pandemic, largely fueled by the cancellation of sporting events and closures of land-based gambling options.

Importantly, gambling problems have been shown to be over-represented in athletes, particularly in male athletes (Grall-Bronnec et al., 2016; Håkansson et al., 2018; Vinberg et al., 2020). Altogether, the gambling attitudes within and around the world of sports may elevate the risk of athletes actually engaging in this type of fraud. Thus, researchers have called for preventive interventions to include interventions regarding the gambling attitudes and practices of athletes themselves, and interventions against gambling problems in case they occur in athletes (O’Shea et al., 2021). Two reviews found that the impacts of the pandemic on gambling behaviour and gambling problems were varied (Hodgins and Stevens, 2021, Sachdeva et al., 2021) whilst another concluded that the impacts were unclear (Brodeur et al., 2021). Public Health England (2021) conducted the only review which more confidently suggests that there was a reduction in overall gambling during COVID-19 restrictions; however, this finding applied only to the initial COVID-19 lockdown in the UK [March to June 2020]. Thus, follow-up studies have been called for in order to assess the longer term implications of COVID-19 on gambling behaviour (Hodgins and Stevens, 2021).

Gambling problems and associated harms in United Kingdom Royal Air Force personnel.

The remaining 10 individuals were excluded from further analyses (based on the uncertainty of their problem gambling status), such that a final sample of 997 individuals were included in the study. Several studies performed in different countries around the world have reported psychological and mental health problems due to the changes slot football manager caused by the COVID-19, including stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms (9–11). According to recent data, the lockdown and social distancing may have exerted an impact even on gambling behavior (12), not only by increasing gambling behavior in those affected by this disorder but even contributing to the occurrence of new cases (13).

This might have produced inflated results and perhaps a higher prevalence rate of at-risk and problem gambling. However, according to the baseline measurement, the participants had anxiety of differing severity (not necessarily linked with COVID), which indicates that it is similar to a mental health population, making them comparable to a psychiatric population, refer to Rozental et al. (2022) for more information. Match-fixing, although not a new problem, has received growing attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been reported in the media to have increased the risk of match-fixing events. Gambling is a well-documented addictive behavior, and gambling-related fraud, match-fixing, is a challenge to the world of sports.

Thus, although movements between gambling types cannot be analyzed here, the present data confirm the hypothesis that during the pandemic, some gambling types are more likely maintained than others, in line with the reported changes to the gambling market during the pandemic, whereas other types are more likely affected. For example, a low reporting of land-based casino gambling was far from surprising, as the major official casinos were closed during the study period, although smaller restaurant-based casinos may still be operating in many places in the country. This is consistent with the description of a relatively substantial migration of gamblers from land-based gambling opportunities to online gambling during casino lockdown in Ontario, Canada (Price, 2020). The present study is among the first studies reporting recent online gambling data from the COVID-19 crisis. The present study included online gamblers, and focused on the characteristics of those reporting or not reporting recent gambling, in a situation with a changing gambling market where all major sports events had been canceled world-wide. Thereby, the study attempts to shed light onto the discussion about whether the dramatic changes in the society during COVID-19 could affect gambling among online gamblers. In summary, it can be concluded that online gambling types were more common compared to their past-year rates than were the land-based gambling types.

Mental Health Over Time and Financial Concerns Predict Change in Online Gambling During COVID-19

However, research has also revealed that some vulnerable groups increased their gambling activities. These groups were formed by individuals of younger age, men, and individuals with a history of problem gambling (Brodeur et al., 2021; Hodgins and Stevens, 2021; Quinn et al., 2022). During the past few years, gambling has been a public health issue that has attracted the increased attention of policymakers and sports associations. In pre-pandemic Europe, different authorities were trying to create distance between some sports, mainly football, and gambling (Sharman, 2020). However, because of the pandemic, some football clubs found themselves in a precarious financial situation.

The majority of the studies were cross-sectional assessments that rely on retrospective reports of gambling prior to the pandemic. Some have already, or plan to complete follow-up surveys with their participants, which will provide high-quality comparative information on post-pandemic status and its implications. However, at least four longitudinal studies exist that have gambling data collected prior to COVID-19 onset. All of these are well-positioned for further follow-ups, although, with the exception of Leonard and colleagues, it is unclear whether these are planned. The investigation by Auer et al.[25▪], which focused specifically on online sports bettors, reported behavioural data from an online operator.

Study parameters

The mediation showed that the onset of gambling was linked with the worry of COVID-infection and that worry predicted the level of gambling problems. This study highlights that vulnerability factors, isolation, and worry can be triggers for individuals with common mental disorders to engage in gambling as well as the importance of screening this population for gambling problems. Interestingly, however, one specific gambling type demonstrates the opposite trend; online horse bettors had significantly less gambling problems if they reported past-30-day use, compared to past-year users with no recent use of that type. Pandemic-onset gamblers had a higher degree of problem gambling compared to pre-pandemic gamblers.

Data and downloads

Likewise, the COVID-19 crisis has had an obvious impact on sports and leisure activities world-wide, including mental health consequences for young and adult athletes. In athletes, a major part of everyday life and career expectancies have been altered or cancelled. A major impact on the mental well-being of athletes therefore has been suspected (Haan et al., 2021).

The patients/participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study. Descriptive characteristics, such as the names of authors, year, region/country, population, aim, design, and conclusion, were collected (see Table 1
). After collecting the information, we collated, summarized, and reported the results using narrative synthesis (Popay et al., 2006). Narrative synthesis is an approach to synthesize “findings from multiple studies that relies primarily on the use of words and text to summarize and explain the findings” (Popay et al., 2006).

Among pre-pandemic gamblers, 8.80% were problem gamblers and 11.00% were at-risk gamblers. Overall, the prevalence of current problem gambling was 0.85 and 0.97% at-risk gamblers in the entire sample of 6,095 individuals. The study, led by the University of Bristol and published today (17 May) in the Journal of Gambling Studies, showed regular male gamblers were particularly prone to gambling more often online during the public lockdown in the UK, compared to their previously reported gambling habits.

However, individual characteristics likely increase the vulnerability to match-fixing exposure; a lower income, being in a role where an individual’s action in a game may have limited visibility, and being on an amateur level where prevention and support services may be harder to access. Also, athletes may be at risk of mental distress because of mistakes made during the game, and where uncertainty may arise about whether these were voluntary or unvoluntary. The COVID-19 crisis is putting considerable pressure on individuals, industries, health systems, and the economy. The extent of collateral damage caused by the pandemic has only begun to be understood. One possible reason for this is that women are more prone to seek help for mental illness in Sweden (Kosidou et al., 2017). This might have produced a bias in relation to men with mental illness that are not a part of a help-seeking population, and they might therefore be missing among the respondents in the study.

Likewise, both in the short and long run, the present findings call for more research following gamblers over time during and after the pandemic, and particularly interventions research testing methods to prevent excessive gambling in the context of this crisis. Such interventions may involve legal constraints on gambling types perceived to be particularly hazardous, in particular rapid online games, such as the limitation of advertisements or deposit limits suggested by policy makers in some settings (Reuters, 2020; SBC News, 2020). Interventions may also involve an increased awareness in mental health care or social support settings, where hazardous gambling patterns can be screened for in times of a financial crisis. Although the world has never seen a crisis similar to the present one, study implications may also be relevant to other crises of a magnitude affecting many parts of society, including the world of sports and gambling. Also, again, it puts attention to the importance to address the role of gambling in sports; for example, previous research has shown that elite athletes (Grall-Bronnec et al., 2016) may have a higher risk of being problem gamblers. The higher degree of gambling problems and indebtedness in past-month gamblers were consistent with the hypothesis that in times where gambling of some types is scarce, those who still engage in that gambling type differ from those who do not. In this context; in times when sports betting is scarce, those who still bet on the reduced amount of sports are likely to have more severe gambling problems.



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