Hundreds of Compulsive Gamblers in Iceland

Vala Hafstað

“Grandma Gambler – that’s me -a 65-year-old, average woman in the Grafarvogur neighborhood [in Reykjavík], who went through treatment at Vogur [detox hospital] without ever having tried alcohol,” a woman, to whom we will refer as Guðrún, tells Morgunblaðið.

Nine years ago, Guðrún underwent treatment for compulsive gambling, after having financially ruined her family, using slot machines and gambling online. She states the slot machines were love at first sight: “The environment, the sounds of the machines – there was so much that I found enchanting. While playing, I relaxed completely. I called it being in a state of nirvana; I felt a connection with myself through the slot machine.”

Nearly 6,000 Icelanders have a gambling problem, and close to 700 may be compulsive gamblers. While slot machines are the most common way of gambling in Iceland, the number of those who gamble online is up in recent years. This is revealed in a new study by Daníel Þór Ólason, professor of psychology at the University of Iceland. He states that treatment solutions offered in Iceland are inadequate.

For a long time, Guðrún managed to hide her unpaid bills from her family – first by always being at home when the mailman arrived and then by renting a P.O. Box. She would play for a minimum of 2-3 hours a day. In the end, she owed a number of people money, having lost between ISK 30 and 50 million.

The treatment did her good, and she is now able to help others who are battling gambling addiction.

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