Youth Gambling Behavior: Novel Approaches to Prevention and Intervention – Open Access

While gambling has been traditionally viewed as an adult activity there has been a growing body of research suggesting its popularity amongst adolescents. Despite findings that suggest that most youth gamble in a relatively responsible manner and have few negative gambling-related behaviors there is strong evidence that they constitute a vulnerable group for gambling disorders. The current paper addresses our current knowledge concerning the prevention of youth gambling problems and provides new potential strategies for helping young individuals experiencing a gambling disorder. While the research lacks strong evidence for best practices, a number of novel approaches to the prevention and treatment of gambling disorders for youth are discussed.

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Reinforcing Small Wins and Frustrating Near-Misses: Further Investigation Into Scratch Card Gambling – Open Access

Scratch card games are incredibly popular in the Canadian marketplace. However, only recently have researchers started to systematically analyze their structural characteristics and how these in turn affect the gambler. We present two studies designed to further understand the underlying physiological and psychological effects that scratch cards have on gamblers. We had gamblers (63 in Experiment 1, 68 in Experiment 2) play custom made scratch cards involving a small win, a regular loss and a near-miss—where they uncovered two out of the three symbols needed to win the top prize. Our predictions were that despite near-misses and losses being objectively equivalent (the gambler wins nothing) gamblers’ reactions to these outcomes would differ dramatically. During game play, skin conductance levels and heart rate were recorded, as well as how long gamblers paused between each game. Gamblers’ subjective reactions to the different outcomes were then assessed. In both studies, near-misses triggered higher levels of physiological arousal (skin conductance levels and heart rates) than losses. Gamblers paused significantly longer following small wins than other outcomes, and reported high arousal, positive affect and urge to gamble—a constellation of results consistent with their rewarding properties. Importantly near-miss outcomes were rated as highly arousing, negative in emotional tone, and the most frustrating of all three outcome types examined. In Experiment 2, when we measured subjective urge to gamble immediately after each outcome, urge to gamble was significantly higher following near-misses than regular losses. Thus, despite not rewarding the gambler with any monetary gain, these outcomes nevertheless triggered higher arousal and larger urges to gamble than regular losses, a finding that may explain in part, the allure of scratch cards as a gambling activity.

How does the stigma of problem gambling influence help-seeking, treatment and recovery? a view from the counselling sector

Problem gambling attracts considerable public stigma and can cause significant self-stigma. However, little research has investigated the role of stigma during treatment-assisted recovery from problem gambling. This study aimed to examine gambling counsellors’ perspectives on whether and how the stigma associated with problem gambling influences problem acknowledgement, help-seeking, treatment and recovery. In-depth interviews with nine gambling counsellors from Victoria, Australia, were analysed to extract shared meanings of experiences using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Counsellors indicated that the burden of problem gambling is typically increased by the addition of stigma and its impacts. This stigma is created and maintained by a lack of public understanding about problem gambling and its causes, and internalization of self-stigmatizing beliefs, leading to delayed help-seeking, anxiety about attending treatment, concerns about counsellor attitudes, and fear of relapse. Counsellors maintained that, before effective gambling treatment could occur, they needed to help clients overcome their self-stigmatizing beliefs to establish confidence and trust in the counsellor, restore self-esteem, enhance stigma coping skills and foster a belief that recovery is possible. Harnessing support from significant others and preparing clients for relapse were also important inclusions to lower stigma. Addressing stigma early in treatment can help to improve treatment adherence and recovery.

Understanding Gambling Mechanisms & Predictors 2016 – Conference presentations

The Alberta Gambling Research Institute has posted the presentation slides from their 15th annual conference, which took place April 7-9 2016. From AGRI’s website:

Conference Learning Objectives

By the end of the Alberta Gambling Research Institute’s Annual Conference, participants will:

  1. Understand current research on the mechanisms behind gambling, problem gambling and recovery from problem gambling
  2. Garner knowledge of the scope of gambling-related research, locally, nationally and internationally
  3. Engage in discussion of issues with speakers and other participants regarding gambling, problem gambling and recovery from gambling
  4. Have the opportunity to showcase their research findings

Presentation themes ranged from updates on the latest research on neurobiological and cognitive mechanisms that underlie gambling and problem gambling to presentations on how different treatment and self-help interventions work. Plenary presentations from top experts provided the stimulus for structured conversation sessions that allowed participants to discuss issues in depth. Participants also had the opportunity to showcase their recent research findings. See Conference 2016 Program.

Predicting online gambling self-exclusion: an analysis of the performance of supervised machine learning models

As gambling operators become increasingly sophisticated in their analysis of individual gambling behaviour, this study evaluates the potential for using machine learning techniques to identify individuals who used self-exclusion tools out of a sample of 845 online gamblers, based on analysing trends in their gambling behaviour. Being able to identify other gamblers whose behaviour is similar to those who decided to use self-exclusion tools could, for instance, be used to share responsible gaming messages or other information that aids self-aware gambling and reduces the risk of adverse outcomes. However, operators need to understand how accurate models can be and which techniques work well. The purpose of the article is to identify the most accurate technique out of four highly diverse techniques and to discuss how to deal analytically and practically with a rare event like self-exclusion, which was used by fewer than 1% of gamblers in our data-set. We conclude that balanced training data-sets are necessary for creating effective models and that, on our data-set, the most effective method is the random forest technique which achieves an accuracy improvement of 35 percentage points versus baseline estimates.

Problem gambling, anxiety and poverty: an examination of the relationship between poor mental health and gambling problems across socio-economic status

Socio-economic status has been shown to be significantly related to both problem gambling and mental health problems. Additionally, forms of psychopathology such as mood and anxiety disorders have been shown to correlate with problem gambling across a variety of settings. However, relatively little research has been conducted examining whether the connection between mood and anxiety disorders and problem gambling is consistent across different levels of socio-economic status. This study examines gambling-related problems among a representative sample of Canadian adults using the 2008 Canadian Community Health Survey (N = 28,271). Generalized linear modelling is used to analyze the data. A moderation effect is found that shows the relationship between anxiety disorders and problem gambling severity varies significantly across socio-economic status. This study shows that social setting has an important influence on the assumed relationship between psychopathology and gambling problems that is downplayed in current problem gambling research. A discussion of the need for greater inclusion of socio-economic context when making assumptions about the connections between problem gambling and psychiatric disorders is made in light of the responsibilities of gambling providers and regulators.

Treating Problem Gambling Samples with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Interventions: A Clinical Trial

The problem gambling (PG) intervention literature is characterised by a variety of psychological treatments and approaches, with varying levels of evidence (PGRTC in Guideline for screening, assessment and treatment in problem and pathological gambling. Monash University, Melbourne, 2011). A recent PG systematic review (Maynard et al. in Res Soc Work Pract, 2015. doi:10.1177/1049731515606977) and the success of mindfulness-based interventions to effectively treat disorders commonly comorbid with PG suggested mindfulness-based interventions may be effective for treating PG. The current study tested the effectiveness of three interventions to treat PGs: 1. case formulation driven Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT); 2. manualised CBT; and 3. mindfulness-based treatment. All three interventions tested returned large effect size improvements in PG behaviour after seven sessions (Cohen’s d range 1.46–2.01), at post-treatment and at 3 and 6-month follow-up. All of the interventions were rated as acceptable by participants at post-treatment. This study suggests that the mindfulness-based and TAU interventions used in the current study appear to be effective at reducing PG behavior and associated distress and they also appear to generalise to improvements in other measures such as quality of life-mental functioning and certain mindfulness facets more effectively than the manualised form of CBT utilised used here. Secondly, a brief mindfulness intervention delivered after psycho-education and a brief CBT intervention may be a useful supplement to traditional CBT treatments by addressing transdiagnostic processes such as rumination and thought suppression. Thirdly, CBT interventions continue to report effectiveness in reducing PG behaviour and associated distress consistent with the prevailing literature and clinical direction.