The convergence of gambling and monetised gaming activities


  • Some video games involve sophisticated in-game purchasing systems.
  • These systems have drawn comparisons to electronic gambling activities.
  • Some in-game purchasing systems employ player tracking to optimise offers.
  • Research suggests a correlational link between in-game spending and gambling.

A recent innovation contributing to the massive growth and profitability of the gaming industry has been the development of in-game monetisation. In-game purchasing features (e.g. ‘loot boxes’, ‘skins’, and other microtransactions) have also generated debate in some jurisdictions as to whether some activities constitute a form of gambling. This brief review presents some academic perspectives and recent studies that have examined the validity of this claim. Evidence has focused on the nature of micro-transaction purchase behaviour, its similarity with gambling, parallel involvement in gambling, and its association with problematic gaming. Early evidence suggests that higher levels of involvement in monetised gaming activities may be associated with symptoms of problematic gaming or gambling. Link to the article

Citation: King, D.L., & Delfabbro, P.H. (2019). The convergence of gambling and monetised gaming activities. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 31, 32–36.

A systematic review of the co-occurrence of gaming disorder and other potentially addictive behaviors

Purpose of Review
The playing of videogames has become an everyday occurrence among many adolescents and emerging adults. However, gaming can be problematic and potentially addictive and problematic gamers can experience co-occurring behavioral or substance use-related problems. The aims of the present review were to (i) determine the co-occurrence of potentially addictive behaviors with problematic and disordered gaming, and (ii) elucidate the potential risk factors in the development and maintenance of co-occurrence within disordered gaming.

Recent Findings
The main findings demonstrated that there are few empirical studies (N = 20) examining (i) co-occurrence of gaming disorder with other addictive behaviors; (ii) longitudinal risk of disordered gaming with co-occurring addictive behaviors; and (iii) mechanisms of co-occurrence in disordered gaming with co-occurring potentially addictive behaviors. Results suggest that disordered gaming can co-occur with a variety of other addictive behaviors (e.g., alcohol use disorder or addictive use of social media), and that research into the co-occurrence of addictive behaviors and substance use is increasing. Link to the article. Link to the article

Citation: Burleigh, T.L., Griffiths, M.D., Sumich, A. et al. (2019). A systematic review of the co-occurrence of gaming disorder and other potentially addictive behaviors. Current Addiction Reports.

Stress and gambling

Gambling is a multi-billion-dollar industry that many people engage with on a regular basis with no adverse effects. For many, gambling is a fun hobby that does not negatively impact their lives. There is, however, a significant minority whose gambling is maladaptive and causes significant adverse consequences, which may lead to personal and financial devastation. Stress and how one responds to stress may be a significant factor in determining who may gamble with impunity versus those who lose control and develop gambling disorder. In this paper, we outline three points at which stress and gambling intersect: 1) gambling to escape stress, 2) gambling as a stressor, and 3) altered stress physiology as a predisposing factor for gambling disorder. Below we describe these intersections and how they may influence the development and maintenance of gambling disorder. Link to the article

Citation: Buchanan, T.W., McMullin, S.D., Baxley, C., & Weinstock, J. (2019). Stress and gambling. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 31, 8–12.

The efficacy of a gambling prevention program among high-school students

Youth problem gambling has become an emergent public health issue, and adolescents constitute a vulnerable age group for the development of gambling-related problems. Although there is research concerning the risk factors of youth problem gambling, rigorous evaluations of the effectiveness of preventive initiatives is still rare. The present study evaluated the efficacy of an integrative intervention to prevent youth problem gambling based on a multidimensional set of factors including gambling-related knowledge, misconceptions, attitudes, gambling frequency, amount of money spent, total hours spent gambling per week, and sensation seeking. A pre- and post-test design was performed with 111 Portuguese high-school students randomly assigned to two groups (experimental and control). The findings demonstrated that the intervention was effective in improving correct knowledge about gambling, reducing misconceptions and attitudes, and in decreasing the total hours spent gambling per week. The intervention was also effective in reducing the number of at-risk/problem gamblers during the study period. Furthermore, these findings were stable after a 6-week follow-up. Overall, the intervention program appeared to be effective in correcting some gambling-related behaviours, and provides suggestions for future interventions. Link to the article

Citation: Calado, F., Alexandre, J., Rosenfeld, L. et al. (2019). The efficacy of a gambling prevention program among high-school students. Journal of Gambling Studies.

Funding of gambling studies and its impact on research

Gambling is a lucrative source of revenue for governments, since it is capable of producing revenue outside “normal” taxation. The global gambling expansion that has occurred within last few decades has not always been in the best interests of the citizenry, but it has been more a result of government–industry partnerships to raise public income (Adams, 2008; Nelson & Mason, 2007; Orford, 2011). Social concern about gambling has been replaced with responsibility for personal choice (Panasitti & Schull, 1994; Nikkinen & Marionneau, 2014).

Much gambling consumption is, however, involuntary, and gambling is one of the “coercive commodities” (Young & Markham, 2017). Those who gamble excessively contribute to gambling taxes disproportionally. Up to 60% of the proceeds of gambling are collected from those categorised as “problem” gamblers (Schull, 2012). Decreasing gambling-related harm therefore also decreases profits, since the total consumption model (TCM) appears to apply to gambling (Rossow, 2019; Sulkunen et al., 2019). Link to the article

Citation: Nikkinen, J. (2019). Funding of gambling studies and its impact on research. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Gambling symptoms, behaviors, and cognitive distortions in Japanese university students

Background: This study was conducted to investigate the relationship between symptoms of gambling problems, gambling behaviours, and cognitive distortions among a university student population in Japan ages 20 to 29 years. We aimed to address the gap in knowledge of gambling disorders and treatment for this population.

Methods: Data were obtained from 1471 Japanese undergraduate students from 19 universities in Japan. Descriptive statistics and hierarchical multivariate regression analysis were used to investigate whether the factors of gambling cognitive distortions would have predictive effects on gambling disorder symptoms.

Results: Results indicated that 5.1% of the participants are classifiable as probable disordered gamblers. The bias of the gambling type to pachinko and pachislot was unique to gamblers in Japan. Of the students sampled, 342 self reported gambling symptoms via the South Oaks Gambling Screen. Hierarchical multivariate regression analysis indicated that one domain of gambling cognitive distortions was associated significantly with gambling symptoms among the 342 symptomatic participants: gambling expectancy (β = 0.19, p < .05). The multivariate model explained 47% of the variance in the gambling symptoms.

Conclusion: This study successfully contributed to the sparse research on university student gambling in Japan. Specifically, our results indicated a statistically significant relationship between gambling cognitive distortions and gambling disorder symptoms. These results can inform the development of preventive education and treatment for university students with gambling disorder in Japan. The report also describes needs for future research of university students with gambling disorder. Link to the article

Citation: Yokomitsu, K., Sakai, T., Irie, T. et al. (2019). Gambling symptoms, behaviors, and cognitive distortions in Japanese university students. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 14(51). doi:10.1186/s13011-019-0230-5

Pathways connecting socioeconomic variables, substance abuse and gambling behaviour: a cross-sectional study on a sample of Italian high-school students

Objectives: The aim of this study was to elucidate the pathway of associations linking gambling, alcohol intake, smoking habit, cannabis consumption between each other and with demographic and socioeconomic variables.

Setting and participants: A survey was conducted in 2017 on a representative sample of 15 602 Italian 14-year-olds to 17-year-olds attending 201 secondary schools.

Outcome measures: Structural Equation Models analysis was used to assess the pathway between gambling, alcohol intake, smoking, cannabis consumption, demographics and socioeconomic factors.

Results: Irrespective of socioeconomic or demographic variables, gambling is positively associated with alcohol and cannabis consumption, while cannabis consumption is predicted by smoking and by alcohol intake, smoking is predicted by alcohol intake. Adolescents with a higher weekly income are more at risk of gambling, drinking alcohol and smoking, while the degree of economic dissatisfaction was positively associated with alcohol intake, cannabis consumption and smoking. Maternal employment appeared to be positively associated with adolescents’ smoking, alcohol intake and cannabis consumption.

Conclusions: This is one of the first studies to shed light on the pathways of associations connecting various health-risk behaviours among adolescents with demographic and socioeconomic factors. Link to the article

Citation: Buja, A., Mortali, C., Mastrobattista, L., et al. (2019). Pathways connecting socioeconomic variables, substance abuse and gambling behaviour: a cross-sectional study on a sample of Italian high-school students. BMJ Open, 9(e031737). doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-031737