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.
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.
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:
- Understand current research on the mechanisms behind gambling, problem gambling and recovery from problem gambling
- Garner knowledge of the scope of gambling-related research, locally, nationally and internationally
- Engage in discussion of issues with speakers and other participants regarding gambling, problem gambling and recovery from gambling
- 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.
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.
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.