On the feasibility of in-venue observations of EGM gamblers and game characteristics

Jason Landon, Katie Palmer du Preez, Maria Bellringer, Max Abbott, and Amanda Roberts.

Detailed observational studies of undisturbed gambler behaviour in venues are rare, especially if the focus is on continuous gambling such as electronic gaming machines (EGMs). EGMs are the main source of harmful gambling in New Zealand and all EGMs in New Zealand now include a mandatory pop-up message feature. The present study reports on 48 hours of in-situ observations of EGM gamblers in casino and non-casino (pub) venues in New Zealand and sought to establish whether relatively detailed observations of EGM features and gambler behaviour in venues were possible. Pop-up messages were the EGM feature focused on given their harm-minimisation potential, and the relative ease with which they can be observed. However, other EGM features were also documented along with descriptive accounts of associated gambler behaviour. The results establish that relatively detailed (quantitative or qualitative) observational data can be collected in venues using smart phones. The data showed pop-up messages were generally attended to but had little observable effect on gambler behaviour in venues. Direct in-situ observation of gamblers can provide ecologically valid information to compliment more common experimental and survey-based approaches. Some suggestions for developing the procedure are discussed.