Sweden’s state-owned gaming operator Svenska Spel has agreed to finance a new research project on gambling dependency as the company looks to better understand and treat the problem.

The operator said that up to three per cent of all Swedish citizens have a gambling problem, prompting it to establish research into the dependency at Lund University. It will commit SEK2.5m (€267,624) to fund research over the next five years.

The project is to be led by Anders Håkansson, who will serve as Lund University’s senior lecturer of addiction medicine, and will research preventative measures to avoid gambling addiction.

“A major need has built up, which society has so far failed to deal with,” he said. “The suffering is great, both for those with a gambling dependency and for their families.

“These people will benefit enormously if we are able to offer good levels of care and also work on preventive measures,” he explained.

Håkansson will also be carrying out clinical work on gambling dependency at the Dependency Centre in Region Skåne, the county in which the university is located.

While the problem is widespread, he said, preventative work and care of sufferers had been “neglected” in Sweden, with research into treatment for various risk groups also being overlooked.

“We need to get better at spotting the early signs of gambling dependency and identifying risk groups,” Håkansson said. “Who is at the greatest risk of developing a dependency? We need to be able to design different preventive measures for different people.”

“We also want to find out more about comorbidity. In other words, which other dependencies and psychiatric illnesses these people have and what the consequences of these are.”

Svenska Spel chief executive Lennart Käll said that his company’s work to prevent gambling problems from developing requires more evidence-based knowledge in order to develop new methods to tackle the issue.

“Ultimately, I hope that this research will have a real impact on Svenska Spel’s preventive work and that through this we will be able to make a further contribution to the healthier development of the gaming market in Sweden,” Käll said.

Region Skåne’s Dependency Centre will also take on greater responsibility in helping treat gambling addiction, by treating those suffering from the issue, having originally only worked with drug and alcohol addicts.

Åsa Magnusson, the centre’s area manager, said that care of those with a dependency had developed to include more than just alcohol and drug addiction.

“We look forward to being able to offer high-quality care to those with gambling dependency problems and through this research being able to develop methods that can be used to prevent gambling dependency in high-risk individuals,” Magnusson explained.

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