Study Finds That Half of Self-Excluding Gamblers Have Gambled, Mostly at Offshore Casinos

A Swedish survey study has found that 49% of gamblers who had self-excluded have breached their exclusion, most of whom used online casinos. In total, 9% of respondents said they had self-excluded from any form of gambling in the past year.

The study by A. Håkansson and N. Komzia from the Department of Clinical Sciences at Lund University involved 1505 people who have gambled in the past year. Out of the people that had breached their self-exclusion, 82% were online casino users.

The authors suggest that those operators were likely offshore, as Sweden has a nationwide self-exclusion service that covers most gambling types, including all online activities. Aside from online casinos, 47% of those who breached their self-exclusion bet on sports, while 43% played online lottery. It’s perhaps not surprising that all these numbers are high, as other studies have shown that participation in multiple forms of gambling correlates with higher risk.

The study has also provided information from prior studies in Sweden and found that:

  • The percentage of people self-excluding has increased from 4% in 2019 to 9% in 2022.
  • Online casino play among those who have breached has increased significantly, from 54% in 2020 to 82% in 2022.
  • Breaching by betting on sports has increased from 21% to 43% between 2020 and 2022.

The data suggests that the number of people breaching their exclusion has increased. That is most likely due to an increased number of accessible offshore casinos and sportsbooks. The survey authors suggest that more efforts should be put into limiting access to offshore websites or somehow regulating them.

Sweden’s Nationwide Self-Exclusion Service

Sweden moved away from a state monopoly model in 2019. When it launched the new multi-license market, it also launched a countrywide self-exclusion service called Spelpaus. The service lets users voluntarily exclude themselves from retail and online gambling operators.

That includes online casinos, sports betting, horse betting, online poker, online lottery, and online bingo. It excludes retail lottery, bingo, and so-called “restaurant casinos.” The government service allows users to self-exclude themselves for a period of one month, three months, six months, or a year. While the exclusions don’t automatically renew, those periods can be extended at any time.

Sweden has also promoted Spelpaus to increase awareness through media channels like radio, TV, newspapers, and online ads. Gambling operators also promote the service on their websites.

US Self-Exclusion Process Varies From State to State

Compared to Sweden, the US does not have a nationwide self-exclusion service. Instead, each state maintains separate registers and enforces rules. Operators also have self-exclusion forms and other tools like Tipico’s “panic button” to promote responsible gambling.

While users can self-exclude themselves directly from the operator’s page, one study suggests that multi-operator self-exclusions are more beneficial. Most state regulators offer such forms online, but applicants must mail or return them in person. In-person submission is an added hurdle, as many with gambling problems already feel ashamed about it.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania have recently launched easier ways for people to self-exclude online. In New Jersey, people can exclude themselves from online gambling, while Pennsylvania has a tool for both online and retail gambling exclusion.

More states will likely follow New Jersey and Pennsylvania and introduce easier-to-access forms and tools. However, they still have a big problem: unregulated offshore operators.

Offshore Operators Enable Problem Gamblers

While US operators and regulators are working hard to introduce more tools to promote responsible gambling, there is the constant threat of offshore operators. Because they’re not regulated, these companies are not part of any registers or multi-operator programs and don’t have to provide responsible gambling tools.

These factors make offshore operators an issue for people with gambling addictions or that show problem gambling signs. What makes it even worse is that mainstream media and sports organizations are promoting offshore operators.

While no tools will be 100% effective, restricting access to these operators is critical. Unfortunately, only small steps have been taken. That includes streaming service Twitch banning streams from offshore casinos.

That’s why many regulators and organizations are calling for the Department of Justice to step in. Whether the Justice Department decides to pursue some of these operators is unknown, but limiting or eliminating their presence is essential to responsible gambling efforts.

About the Author

Chav Vasilev

Chav Vasilev

After years of managing fast-casual restaurants, Chav turned his passion for sports and occasional slot wins into a career as an iGaming writer. Sharing his time between Europe and the US, he has been exposed to betting and gambling for years and has closely followed the growth in the US. Chav is a proponent of playing responsibly and playing only at legal online sites. When not writing, you will find him watching and betting on sports, especially soccer, or trying to land the next big bonus on a slot.
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