Negative Mood States or Dysfunctional Cognitions: Their Independent and Interactional Effects in Influencing Severity of Gambling Among Chinese Problem Gamblers in Hong Kong

By Wong, D. F. K., Zhuang, X. Y., Jackson, A., Dowling, N., & Lo, H. H. M.

Abstract: Gambling-related cognitions and negative psychological states have been proposed as major factors in the initiation and maintenance of problem gambling (PG). While there are a substantial number of studies supporting the role of cognitive dysfunctions in the initiation and maintenance of PG, very few empirical studies have explored the specific role of negative psychological states in influencing PG behaviours. In addition, very few studies have examined the interaction effects of cognitive dysfunctions and negative psychological states in exerting influence on PG behaviours. Therefore, the present study aims to examine the main and interaction effects of gambling-related cognitions and psychological states on the gambling severity among a group of problem gamblers in Hong Kong. A cross-sectional research design was adopted. A purposive sample of 177 problem gamblers who sought treatment from a social service organization in Hong Kong completed a battery of standardised questionnaires. While gambling-related cognitions were found to exert significant effects on gambling severity, negative psychological states (i.e. stress) significantly moderated the relationship between gambling cognitions and gambling severity. In essence, those participants who reported a higher level of stress had more stable and serious gambling problems than those who reported a lower level of stress irrespective of the level of gambling-related cognitions. The findings of the moderating role of negative emotions in the relationship between cognitive distortions and severity of gambling provide insight towards developing an integrated intervention model which includes both cognitive-behavioural and emotion regulation strategies in helping people with PG.

Wong, D. F. K., Zhuang, X. Y., Jackson, A., Dowling, N., & Lo, H. H. M. (2017). Negative Mood States or Dysfunctional Cognitions: Their Independent and Interactional Effects in Influencing Severity of Gambling Among Chinese Problem Gamblers in Hong Kong. Journal of Gambling Studies, 1–15.



Gambling Participation, Expenditure and Risk of Harm in Australia, 1997–1998 and 2010–2011

By Armstrong, A. R., Thomas, A., & Abbott, M.

Abstract: Gambling-related harm results primarily from financial losses. Internationally Australia continues to rank as the largest spending nation per capita on gambling products. This would suggest that Australian gamblers are at disproportionately high risk of harm despite almost two decades of industry scrutiny and regulation, and investment in research, treatment and education programs. However, declines in participation rates, per capita expenditure, household expenditure, national disposable income spent on gambling and problem gambling rates have been cited as evidence that fewer people are gambling, that gamblers are spending less, and that gambling safety in Australia has improved. The current study investigated these propositions using national population and accounts data, and statistics from Australia’s two population-representative gambling surveys conducted in 1997–1998 and 2010–2011. Despite a falling participation rate the study found no real change in the number of people gambling overall, and increasing numbers consuming casino table games, race wagering and sports betting. Further found were increases rather than decreases in average gambler expenditure, overall, and across most products, particularly electronic gaming machines (EGMs). Potentially risky levels of average expenditure were observed in both periods, overall and for race wagering, casino table gaming, and EGMs. Changes in the proportion of income spent on gambling suggest risks declined overall and for race wagering and casino table gaming, but increased for EGMs. Finally, while problem gambling statistics were not comparable between periods, the study found double the number of moderate risk gamblers previously estimated for 2010–2011 amongst the 2 million Australians found to have experienced one or more gambling-related problems. The findings have implications for public health policy and resourcing, and the way in which prevalence and expenditure statistics have been interpreted by researchers, government and industry in Australia and elsewhere.

Armstrong, A. R., Thomas, A., & Abbott, M. (2017). Gambling Participation, Expenditure and Risk of Harm in Australia, 1997–1998 and 2010–2011. Journal of Gambling Studies, 1–20.


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.