Finnish bank makes some questionable claims

Giving an example of media coverage and claims unsupported by facts this week, the Finnish website YLE.fi claimed that online gambling may be surpassing unemployment as a common cause of private financial difficulties.

It quotes a bank official from Nordea Bank who claims that clients are defaulting on mortgage payments because of an online gambling habit, but does not provide facts backing his assertion. Tarja Svartström, a private financal affairs economist at Nordea Bank says it is a new phenomenon, and that excessive non-gambling credit in addition to the proliferation of online gambling sites accessed by Finnish gamblers have proved to be a devastating combination for people with a gambling addiction.

"We are seeing the gambling phenomenon in people not paying their home loan installments, or paying them late", said Svartstrom. "In contrast, unemployment does not at all seem to be such a phenomenon."

The problem is also being seen in the number of people contracting new bank loans to pay off outstanding loans. In extreme cases, some people who have lost their jobs in the recession have turned to online gambling in the hope of paying off home loans, Svartstrom claims, again without substantiating his statement.

"People can't pay their loans because they gamble. On the other hand, it can be that when it looks like someone is getting into financial difficulties, he or she tries to manage loans by gambling," the economist notes.

Kati Rantala, a special researcher at Finland's National Research Institute of Legal Policy says - also without producing any statistics - that addictions in general are behind many private financial problems and they have increased over the past couple of years, including more addiction to gambling.

A more objective report appeared in Examiner.com at http://www.examiner.com:80/x-1607-Online-Poker-Examiner~y2009m5d25-Online-poker-does-not-contribute-to-Problem-Gamblers this week, where an article by Steven Ruddock takes a look at claims by notoriously anti-online gambling groups and the careful choice of semantics by the National Gambling Impact Study and contrasts these with factual statistics from scientific studies.

Ruddock observes that there is a mountain of evidence showing online gambling (and poker in particular) does not increase the number of problem gamblers...and goes on to show where that evidence can be found. Among his arguments is a reference to the UK Gambling Commission's regular "British Gambling Prevalence Surveys", which continue to show a low incidence of addictive gambling in the online secor.

The author also makes some interesting disclosures regarding the composition of the National Gambling Impact Study's board members and the danger of bias this may constitute.

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