Sweden strengthens problem gambling support with new legislation

The Swedish government has taken steps to improve gambling addiction treatment services ahead of the liberalisation of the country's gambling market.

The government has introduced legislation that puts gambling addiction on par with alcohol and drug addiction under Sweden's Social Services Act and Health Care Act, and gives local authorities responsibility for supporting gambling addicts.

The changes are expected to come into force next year and will see local health authorities support problem gamblers in the same way they support people with alcohol and drug dependencies. They will also be tasked with educating young people on the risks associated with gambling.

Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) said the new legislation will address previous shortcomings which resulted in a lack of support and treatment services in certain parts of the country.

"Compulsive gambling is a serious problem, which brings great social and economic consequences, both for those who play and for their families," said Christina Högblom of Socialstyrelsen.

"So far, it has been difficult in many parts of the country to get help for gambling problems. Hopefully this legislative change means that access to care and treatment will increase and more people will be able to get the necessary help."

Högblom added that the Health and Welfare Board is currently working with a team of experts to develop a treatment programme for problem gamblers, which it will submit to government in December.

An estimated two percent of the adult Swedish population (approx. 134,000 people) have a gambling problem according to the Health and Welfare Board, of which 31,000 are considered gambling addicts.

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