Gambling a problem in Finland

Gambling a problem in Finland

Renowned for its poker players, the Nordic country of Finland also appears to have more than its share of problem gamblers, which gives the lie to government claims that state monopolised gambling is safer than an open market.

According to local media reports, Finland's prevalence of problem gambling ratio is, at 3 percent of the adult population, way higher than that of Britain, where the latest survey by the Gambling Commission reported a 0.06 percent ratio.

Two-thirds of Finland's potentially problem punters - around 40 000 people - fall into the serious gambling addiction category, the reports claim.

Psychologist Marja Pura, who works with compulsive gamblers at Oulu's Redi 64 youth addiction centre, defined addicted gamblers in the 'desperado' phase, saying: "In extreme cases, which we call the desperado phase, the addict is truly alone and heavily in debt. Suicidal thinking and attempts become part of everyday life."

Whether there are grounds for the government's claims that state-monopolised gambling provides more protection for punters is arguable, because most of Finland's problem gambling is associated with games operated by state monopolies like Veikkaus, the Slot Machine Association (RAY) and Fintoto.

"From the point of view of preventing problems, a system directly under state or public control is at least theoretically better able to intervene in problems," says Dr Tuukka Tammi, Research Manager at the A-Clinic Foundation and chair of the Finnish Society for Alcohol and Drug Research.

"However the level of compulsive gambling appears to be about the same regardless of what kind of system is in effect," he says.