Gambling and Video Game Playing Among Youth

Jessica McBride & Jeffrey Derevensky

Gambling and video game playing represent two leisure activities in which adolescents and young adults participate. There are psychological and behavioural parallels between some forms of gambling (e.g., slot machines, video lottery terminals, electronic gambling machines) and some types of video games (e.g., arcade games). Both activities operate on behavioural principles of variable reinforcement schedules in order to reward and prolong play and use exciting and stimulating sound and light effects within game play. Additionally, both activities have similar negative effects associated with excessive play (e.g., poor academic performance, moodiness, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, and interpersonal conflict). Thus, there is concern that children and adolescents who are attracted to video games, for both psychological rewards and the challenge, may be at greater risk to gamble. We examined the gambling and video game playing behaviour among 1,229 adolescents and young adults. Results indicate that gamblers, relative to non-gamblers, were more likely to play video games. Video game players were more likely than non-players to gamble. Both social and problem gamblers had higher rates of video game playing than did non-gamblers, and addicted gamers had higher rates of gambling than did social and non-gamers. Results from the current study suggest significant overlap in youth participation in both gambling activities and video game playing. These results have implications for future research and the treatment of problem gambling and video game addiction.

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