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.

Episodic and Binge Gambling: An Exploration and Preliminary Quantitative Study (open access)

By S. Cowlishaw, E. Nespoli, J.K. Jebadurai, N. Smith, and H. Bowden-Jones.

The DSM-5 includes provisions for episodic forms of gambling disorder, with such changes aligned with earlier accounts of potential binge gambling behaviours. However, there is little research that indicates the utility of these classifications of episodic or binge gambling, and this study considered their characteristics in a clinical sample. It involved administration of a new binge gambling screening tool, along with routine measures, to n = 214 patients entering a specialist treatment clinic for gambling problems. Results indicated that episodic gambling was common in this clinical context, with 28 and 32% of patients reporting gambling episodes that were (a) regular and alternating, and (b) irregular and intermittent, respectively. These patterns were distinguished by factors including associations with covariates that indicated differences from continuous gamblers. For example, the irregular episodic gamblers, but not the regular pattern, demonstrated lower levels of problem gambling severity and comorbidity. Rates of potential binge gambling, which was defined in terms of additional criteria, were around 4% and numbers were insufficient for comparable analyses. The findings support inclusion of episodic forms of gambling disorder in the DSM-5, but highlight the need for improved recognition and research on heterogeneous forms of episodic gambling.

Chinese Beliefs in Luck are Linked to Gambling Problems via Strengthened Cognitive Biases: A Mediation Test

By Matthew S. M. Lim and Robert D. Rogers.

Problematic patterns of gambling and their harms are known to have culturally specific expressions. For ethnic Chinese people, patterns of superstitious belief in this community appear to be linked to the elevated rates of gambling-related harms; however, little is known about the mediating psychological mechanisms. To address this issue, we surveyed 333 Chinese gamblers residing internationally and used a mediation analysis to explore how gambling-related cognitive biases, gambling frequency and variety of gambling forms (‘scope’) mediate the association between beliefs in luck and gambling problems. We found that cognitive biases and scope were significant mediators of this link but that the former is a stronger mediator than the latter. The mediating erroneous beliefs were not specific to any particular type of cognitive bias. These results suggest that Chinese beliefs in luck are expressed as gambling cognitive biases that increase the likelihood of gambling problems, and that biases that promote gambling (and its harms) are best understood within their socio-cultural context.

Electronic Gaming Machine (EGM) Environments: Market Segments and Risk

Matthew Rockloff, Neda Moskovsky, Hannah Thorne, Matthew Browne, Gabrielle Bryden.

This study used a marketing-research paradigm to explore gamblers’ attraction to EGMs based on different elements of the environment. A select set of environmental features was sourced from a prior study (Thorne et al. in J Gambl Issues 2016b), and a discrete choice experiment was conducted through an online survey. Using the same dataset first described by Rockloff et al. (EGM Environments that contribute to excess consumption and harm, 2015), a sample of 245 EGM gamblers were sourced from clubs in Victoria, Australia, and 7516 gamblers from an Australian national online survey-panel. Participants’ choices amongst sets of hypothetical gambling environments allowed for an estimation of the implied individual-level utilities for each feature (e.g., general sounds, location, etc.). K-means clustering on these utilities identified four unique market segments for EGM gambling, representing four different types of consumers. The segments were named according to their dominant features: Social, Value, High Roller and Internet. We found that the environments orientated towards the Social and Value segments were most conducive to attracting players with relatively few gambling problems, while the High Roller and Internet-focused environments had greater appeal for players with problems and vulnerabilities. This study has generated new insights into the kinds of gambling environments that are most consistent with safe play.

Me, Myself, and Money II: Relative Deprivation Predicts Disordered Gambling Severity via Delay Discounting, Especially Among Gamblers Who Have a Financially Focused Self-Concept


Nassim Tabri, N. Will Shead, Michael J. A. Wohl.

In the current research, we examined whether the known link between relative deprivation and disordered gambling (via delay discounting; i.e., preferences for immediate smaller rewards relative to delayed larger rewards) is moderated by the extent to which gamblers have a financially focused self-concept. Specifically, we hypothesized that delay discounting would be a strong predictor of disordered gambling among those who base their self-worth on their financial success. To test this moderated-mediation model, a community sample of gamblers (N = 239) completed measures that assessed relative deprivation, delay discounting, financially focused self-concept, and disordered gambling severity. As predicted, people who felt more relative deprivation reported more severe symptoms of disordered gambling and this association was mediated by delay discounting. Importantly, this mediated relationship was moderated by the extent to which participants’ self-concept was focused on financial success. Among participants whose self-concept was high in financial focus, greater delay discounting (stemming from relative deprivation) was a strong predictor of disordered gambling. Among people whose self-concept was low in financial focus, delay discounting (stemming from relative deprivation) was a weak predictor of disordered gambling. Thus, the magnitude of the indirect effect of relative deprivation on disordered gambling severity was larger among people with a more financially focused self-concept—an effect mediated by delay discounting. These findings suggest that targeting gamblers’ financial focus in prevention and treatment interventions may be instrumental in curtailing the development and maintenance of disordered gambling.


Bet Anywhere, Anytime: An Analysis of Internet Sports Bettors’ Responses to Gambling Promotions During Sports Broadcasts by Problem Gambling Severity

Nerilee Hing, Alex Myles Thomas Russell, Matthew Lamont, Peter Vitartas.

Promotions for online sports betting during televised sports broadcasts are regularly viewed by millions of Australians, raising concerns about their impacts on vulnerable groups including at-risk and problem gamblers. This study examined whether responses to these promotions varied with problem gambling severity amongst 455 Australian Internet sports bettors participating in an online survey. Results indicated that young male Internet sports bettors are especially vulnerable to gambling problems, particularly if they hold positive attitudes to gambling sponsors who embed promotions into sports broadcasts and to the promotional techniques they use and this heightens the risk that alluring messages contribute to excessive gambling. As problem gambling severity increased, so too did recognition that these promotions have impacted negatively on their sports betting behaviour. Because a plethora of sports betting brands and promotions are now heavily integrated into sports coverage, social marketing efforts are needed to offset their persuasive appeal and counter the positive attitudes towards them that appear linked to excessive gambling amongst Internet sports bettors.

Internet-Based Delivery of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Compared to Monitoring, Feedback and Support for Problem Gambling: A Randomised Controlled Trial

Leanne M. Casey, Tian P. S. Oei, Namrata Raylu, Katherine Horrigan, Jamin Day, Michael Ireland, Bonnie A. Clough.

The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of an Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy program (I-CBT) for the treatment of problem gambling, when compared to a waitlist control and an active comparison condition consisting of monitoring, feedback, and support (I-MFS). Participants (N = 174) were randomly allocated to the three conditions. Variables of interest were gambling outcome and related mental health measures. Participants in the active conditions (I-CBT and I-MFS) completed six online modules. Both I-CBT and I-MFS conditions resulted in significant treatment gains on gambling severity. However, I-CBT was also associated with reductions in a range of other gambling-related and mental health outcomes. Compared with I-MFS, I-CBT produced greater effects across seven outcomes measures, relating to gambling urges, cognitions, stress, and life satisfaction. I-CBT participants also rated the program as significantly more satisfactory. Treatment gains observed for both active conditions were found to be stable through to 12 month follow up. The results indicate that the benefits of I-CBT were more than simply the non-specific effects of engaging in online treatment or receiving motivation, feedback, and support. Online treatments for gambling may be a valuable tool in increasing help-seeking and treatment engagement in this population, and be integrated as part of stepped care approaches to treatment.