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Now I don’t play at all” (female, 65–74), one participant explained, while another one admitted that she had “not even noticed that they were opened again” (female, 35–49). Similar stories were reported by participants in the online questionnaire. One respondent describes how “peace has returned to my soul as I no longer gamble” (male, 65–74). Even participants who did not personally gamble on EGMs had noticed the positive effects of closures. Respondents reported noticing that “old people can now shop without being tempted to gamble” (female, 65–74), or that “there are less stressed, worried looking people around the machines” (female, 50–64). We have used the deductive content analysis as method (Elo and Kyngäs, 2008, p. 111–112).

First, the qualitative nature of the study does not allow us to generalise the results to the entire Finnish population. Second, particularly geographical differences across participants from different Finnish regions could not be systematically studied with our sample size. Fourth, the study has focused on gambler experiences rather than actual behavioural changes in gambling patterns that could be better determined by for example utilising company sales or tracking data. When EGMs were reopened, some participants reported having resumed their old behavioural patterns while others managed to maintain non-gambling. Some reported shifting their consumption to other gambling products, and particularly online gambling. Those who already gamble on fast, habit-forming EGMs appear to have preferred to substitute this gambling with other fast-paced, digital, and habit-forming gambling products, particularly online gambling.

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From Habit-Forming to Habit-Breaking Availability: Experiences on Electronic Gambling Machine Closures During COVID-19

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Rather, shifts to slower games from EGMs were described as positive. “I’ve been playing more horse betting games while being happy about EGM closures” (male, 50–64), as explained by one survey respondent. Second, shifting EGM consumption to online gambling can prove equally harmful.

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At the end of January 2022, Youssof asks Solulab about the web application. The project manager stated that they would not be making a web application because Solulab had spent all resources on the mobile application. He was rightfully confused, and when he approached Solulab with these queries, they also seemed to be equally as confused.

We are thankful to all the participants who shared their experiences in the survey and in the interviews. For others, and particularly for those who reported having previously experienced problems with their gambling, maintaining non-gambling had been somewhat more difficult, but still possible. For one participant, COVID-19-related restrictions had allowed them to “finally break free from a gambling addiction that had lasted for 20 years” (male, 35–49). Another reported having managed to “keep away from machines since March 2020” (male, 65–74). One participant explained that “shutting down supermarket EGMs has reduced my urge to gamble significantly, and that is good. Most of these respondents had only gambled on EGMs sporadically or recreationally before the pandemic and had simply not picked up the habit since.

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The levels of past-year EGM gambling differ across the respondents which is reflected in the qualitative results. What is not yet known is how Finnish gamblers have experienced the prolonged EGM closures and partial re-openings during the extending COVID-19 pandemic time. The current study focuses on how the change from habit-creating and constant availability of EGMs to “habit-breaking” closures is experienced amongst gamblers 1 year into the pandemic. In Finland, as well as in other countries, EGM gambling features predominantly in help-seeking statistics (Livingstone et al., 2019; Heiskanen et al., 2020).

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During the lockup period, users cannot transfer the coins put into the staking wallet. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License . No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Ethical review and approval was not required for the study on human participants in accordance with the local legislation and institutional requirements. The only under 18-yearold participant participated anonymously in the web survey and was asked to click to confirm that they had permission from a guardian to participate. To me, the mystery is how people on the East African coast had gotten a liking – and a sufficient supply – of 18th century Venetian ducats.

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They have not been a problem for me, I gambled on EGMs maybe 7–8 times a year. In addition to the qualitative analysis, descriptive statistics are given of the prevalence of trends and responses in the data using percentages. There were several Portuguese trade posts along the East African coast, figthing against the Mamluk trade. There was also a line from Egypt, over Sudan and Ethiopia to Somalia. The Indian traders from Oman also had their claims there, like Zanzibar and Pemba. Also there were connections to Sri Lanka, where late Roman coins played a urgent rule a long time.

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Further studies should also focus on the experiences of concerned significant others of gamblers as well as on the experiences of other products than EGMs. Comparative studies on the experiences of different gambler groups or across different societal contexts would be particularly needed. EGMs are designed to be addictive, and their visible placement in everyday environments may make it difficult to maintain non-gambling. In this section, we focus more closely on the experiences of those participants in the data who reported having gambled on EGMs previously but who had maintained non-gambling despite changing conditions.

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We then developed a categorisation matrix of the questions we asked the qualitative data . Then we analysed the data by forming main categories debitum price prediction and sub-categories. The main categories are experiences of EGM closures; experiences of EGM re-openings, maintained habits; and shifted habits.

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The questionnaire also inquired whether participants had gambled on Veikkaus or offshore provider products during the pandemic. Thirty percent of all respondents had also played on offshore gambling sites during the pandemic, while 16.5% had also played on the website of PAF. PAF is a gambling provider located on the autonomous Finnish Åland islands and it has been the main offshore gambling provider in Mainland Finland. In the last population study from 2019, its share of offshore gambling had nevertheless declined (Salonen et al., 2020).

As the number of participants in the online questionnaire was small, the focus in the analysis was on the answers to open-ended questions. Quantitative data of the material is only given to illustrate more general trends in the data. The data were analysed using qualitative data analysis software Atlas.ti by two researchers. We analysed the answers to open-ended questions in the online questionnaire data as well as interviews by applying codes that correspond to the main themes of the categorisation matrix. Codes were attributed to full answers in the case of the questionnaire data and to full statements in the case of the interview data.

During the first wave of COVID-19 , EGMs placed in Finnish non-casino locations, gambling arcades, and Casino Helsinki were shut down. EGMs were reopened in July 2020 but were closed again during the autumn in regions classified as being in an acceleration or community transmission phase of COVID-19, including the Helsinki region. The subsequent waves of COVID-19 have been characterised by closures and partial re-openings of the EGM network depending on the region. These changes are likely to have impacted how gamblers have experienced the availability of EGM provision as well as the role of EGMs in the Finnish gambling landscape. Habit-forming technologies are designed to maximise time on device (Schüll, 2012) while extensive exposure to gambling leads to increased consumption (Abbott et al., 2016; Markham et al., 2016).

EGM shutdowns in Finland have changed the habitual landscape of gambling and forced gamblers to reconsider their relationship to these machines. Following the pragmatist understanding of the concept of habit, COVID-19-related closures have therefore constituted a new situation in which those who gamble have also adapted (cf. Kilpinen, 2012). For some of the participants in the current study, and notably those having previously gambled on EGMs, the closures have been an opportunity to break a long gambling habit. Changing conditions and situations caused by closures of habit-based EGM play have allowed our participants to reflect not only on their own gambling but also on the institutional context of gambling in Finland. Some had even grown increasingly critical of the wide availability of harmful gambling products in the Finnish society.

Population studies show that participation in EGM gambling is particularly prevalent amongst those who play problematically or who experience gambling harms (Vasiliadis et al., 2013; Sulkunen et al., 2019). The structural characteristics of EGMs are designed to prolong and reinforce gambling. Like other habit-forming technologies, they are designed to maximise the consumer’s time on device even at the risk of harms and addictive behaviours (see Schüll, 2012; Langvardt, 2019). Habit-forming technologies—or even persuasive technologies (cf. Langvardt, 2019)—such as EGMs, are harmful when used, but possibly even more harmful when constantly and widely available. EGMs placed in convenience locations may contribute to habit-formation. We are grateful for the help of Katariina Mankinen in the collection of interview data and for the help of the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention in the collection of the online questionnaire data.

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I have been a teacher/entrepreneur most of my career. From the founder of TestCafe, I recently moved into my new role as Director at NeoStencil. I love taking photos (at times a couple out of hundreds turn out ok), a game of squash whenever I can, and I’m learning to play the mouth organ and piano (at snail’s pace).