Gambling despite financial loss: The role of losses disguised as wins in multiline slots [subscription research report]

Graydon, Candice, Dixon, Mike J., Stange, Madison & Fugelsang, Jonathan A. (2018). Addiction. doi:

Abstract: Background and Aims
Slot machines pose serious problems for a subset of gamblers. On multiline slots, many small credit returns are less than one’s spin wager, resulting in a net loss to the player. These outcomes are called losses disguised as wins (LDWs). We aimed to show that different proportions of LDWs could differentially affect gambling persistence (continuing to gamble despite financial loss), but that such LDW effects may depend on problem gambling symptomatology.

Design: Gamblers were randomized to play 100 spins on a game with few, moderate, or many LDWs (between subjects design), then continued playing for as long as they wished during (unbeknownst to players) a losing streak (to measure gambling persistence).

Setting: A custom built casino in a gambling research lab in Waterloo, Canada.

Participants: Experienced gamblers (N = 132) with varying levels of problem gambling symptomatology from the Waterloo, Canada community.

Measurements: We measured the number of voluntary spins participants played (persistence) during the losing streak following the 100‐spin playing sessions. We measured problem gambling symptomatology using the Problem Gambling Severity Index, and classified them as non‐problem (n = 53), low risk (n = 55), or higher risk (n = 24) gamblers.

Findings: Persistence trends differed depending on LDW frequency and problem‐gambling status (Interaction: p = .037). High‐risk gamblers showed a “sweet spot” for LDW reinforcement, persisting for longer in the moderate than few or many LDW games (Quadratic trend across LDW games: p = .028). Non‐problem gamblers showed a linear trend across LDW games, gambling for longer in the few LDW game (p = .007). The trend for at‐risk gamblers was inconclusive (ps > .31).

Conclusions: Multiline slots contain outcomes in which one loses more than the original wager (losses disguised as wins or LDWs). Moderate (versus few and high) proportions of LDWs appear to make higher risk players gamble for longer despite financial loss. Article details and subscription access


Prevalence of youth gambling and potential influence of substance use and other risk factors across 33 European countries: First results from the 2015 ESPAD study [subscription access article]

(2018) Prevalence of youth gambling and potential influence of substance use and other risk factors across 33 European countries: First results from the 2015 ESPAD study. Addiction, doi: 10.1111/add.14275. Full citation

Abstract: Although generally prohibited by national regulations, underage gambling has become popular in Europe, with relevant cross‐country prevalence variability. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of underage gambling in Europe stratified by type of game and on‐line/off‐line mode and to examine the association with individual and family characteristics and substance use. Read more

Gamble Much? How to Figure out if You’ve Got a Problem: Get inside the mind of the compulsive gambler [Full text]

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.. 

Psychology Today

Abstract: Almost everyone has gambled at some point in life, but as many as 3.5% may have a form of gambling disorder. Psychology’s understanding of gambling disorder continues to evolve. Up until recently, people who we might call compulsive gamblers were regarded as having a disorder of “impulse control.” Psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, the DSM-IV-TR (link is external), placed compulsive gambling, called “pathological gambling,” in the section of disorders that also included kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling). In their revamping of all psychological disorders, in light of new conceptualizations, DSM-5 places “gambling disorder” in a new category of “Non-Substance-Related-Disorders.” Rather than being more similar to people with compulsive behaviors, then, people with gambling disorder now are viewed as more similar to people who have a substance disorder.

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A Functional Analytic Approach to Understanding Disordered Gambling [Subscription access only]

Mark R. Dixon, Alyssa N. Wilson, Jordan Belisle, James B. Schreiber. 

The Psychological Record

Abstract: The Gambling Functional Assessment (GFA) hypothesized four possible maintaining functions of gambling behavior, including social attention, escape from aversive events, access to tangible items, and sensory stimulation. In the years following the GFA’s release, research teams have argued for a revised model of the GFA to account for just two possible functions maintaining gambling behavior (positive and negative reinforcement). In the current study, we examined the extent to which a four-factor gambling functional assessment was possible, sustaining a conceptual and theoretical orientation consistent with a functional behavioral account of gambling. Three hundred and sixty-five recreational and disordered gamblers completed a demographic survey, the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), and the GFA. An exploratory factor analysis was first conducted to determine GFA functional items that loaded onto a common factor, and a confirmatory factor analysis was conducted to determine if a four-factor model, consistent with the functional categories of the GFA, provided a good fit for the obtained data. Outcomes supported the model, suggesting that a four-factor functional account of gambling behavior can be obtained. Differing results obtained by separate research teams, however, suggest that more precise research may be needed in the development and analysis of functional instruments for use with gamblers.

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Cite this article as: Dixon, M.R., Wilson, A.N., Belisle, J. et al. Psychol Rec (2018).


Problem gambling and the five-factor model of personality: A large population-based study.

Brunborg, G. S., Hanss, D., Mentzoni, R. A., Molde, H., & Pallesen, S. (2016). Problem gambling and the five-factor model of personality: A large population-based study. Addiction, n/a–n/a.
Background and aims:  Knowledge of the personality characteristics of individuals who develop gambling problems is important for designing targeted prevention efforts. Previous studies of the relationship between the five-factor model of personality and gambling problems were based on small samples not representative of the general population. We estimated differences in Neuroticism, Extroversion, Intellect, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness between non-problem gamblers and individuals with low, moderate and severe gambling problems.  Design:  Cross-sectional survey.  Setting:  Norway.  Participants:  10 081 (51.5% female) individuals aged 16 to 74 years (mean age 46.5 years).  Measures:  The Problem Gambling Severity Index, The Mini-International Personality Item Pool, and demographic variables. Differences between groups of gamblers were analyzed by ordinary least squares regression models separately for each personality trait adjusting for gender, age, cohabitation, level of education and work status.  Findings:  Gamblers with low level, moderate level and severe level of gambling problems differed significantly from non-problem gamblers in Neuroticism (b = 0.16, 0.34 and 0.66 respectively, all p < .001) and Conscientiousness (b = -0.13, -0.27, and -0.44 respectively, all p < .001). Moderate and severe problem gamblers differed from non-problem gamblers in Agreeableness (b = -0.21, p < .001 and b = -0.20, p = .028 respectively). In addition, gambling problems were much more prevalent among men than women, and more prevalent among those who live alone, individuals without tertiary education, and among those who are unemployed or on disability pension.  Conclusions  A higher level of problem gambling severity appears to be associated with higher scores on Neuroticism, and with lower scores on Conscientiousness and Agreeableness in the Mini-International Personality Item Pool.

Gambling and problem gambling in Switzerland

Aims – To provide an overview of gambling and problem gambling in Switzerland, including historical aspects, past and current legislation and policies, treatment options and the research base. Methods – A literature search was conducted on two databases (PubMed and PsycINFO), and official government and statistical reports selected from the official websites of four sources (Federal Office of Justice; Federal Gambling Board; Federal Office of Statistics; Swiss Lottery and Betting Board). Results – After a history of banning or partial banning, Swiss gambling became regulated at the beginning of the 20th century through successive laws. The current system is characterized by important differences in the law and policies for casinos and lotteries, and contradictions in the regulation of these two areas are still under debate in order to develop new legislation.

Source: Billieux, J., Achab, S., Savary, J.-F., Simon, O., Richter, F., Zullino, D., & Khazaal, Y. (2016). Gambling and problem gambling in Switzerland. Addiction.

Response to commentaries—clear principles for gambling research

[Editorial; full text]

We are confident that most researchers are increasingly aware that receiving funds from the gambling industry, particularly when this is subject in any way to industry direction, is perilous to their reputation and may, at the very least, give rise to a reasonable perception of bias. In some cases, of course, this may in fact cause actual bias, whether unconscious or otherwise. Yet even where funds appear to be provided with no strings attached there is the risk, and perhaps in some cases the reality, that researchers will be loath to kill the goose that lays the golden egg…

Source: Livingstone, C., & Adams, P. J. (2016). Response to commentaries—clear principles for gambling research. Addiction, 111(1), 16–17.