‘It’s concerning’, but is it your concern? Objectivity, advocacy and activism in gambling research [subscription article]

Abstract: In recent years, there has been an increase in advocacy and social media activism in the field of gambling studies. Much of the focus of this activity has been directed toward concern about the lack of concerted government action to reduce gambling-harm as well as concern about industry influence in government policy and research agendas. It is thought that such activity could be successful in reducing harmful behavior as has been witnessed in relation to smoking in previous decades. In this paper, we highlight some concerns about this advocacy activity as it applies to gambling. We support the view that careful scrutiny should be applied to any research directly funded for industry due to the potential conflict of interest. However, we believe that: (a) greater scrutiny should be given to the role of government and other interest groups in the determination of research agendas and (b) greater transparency be displayed by public health advocates who are strongly opposed to gambling on moral, ethical or theoretical grounds. We discuss the potential pitfalls of conflating research academic and advocacy roles and the threats which this can pose for balanced, inclusive and objective debates in the field of gambling studies. Article details and access conditions

Citation: Delfabbro, P., & King, D.L. (2020). ‘It’s concerning’, but is it your concern? Objectivity, advocacy and activism in gambling research. International Gambling Studies, DOI: 10.1080/14459795.2020.1791221

On the limits and challenges of public health approaches in addressing gambling-related problems [subscription access article]

Many governments around the world have adopted a public health (PH) approach as a framework to minimise, reduce or prevent gambling-related harm. In principle, this appears very sensible given the success of PH approaches in other areas of society: in disease control, nutrition, physical exercise and reductions in smoking. In this paper, we examine the challenges that are faced in applying PH principles to gambling. We argue that gambling is a difficult activity to address because of the highly skewed distribution of severity that makes PH interventions seem less relevant for the majority and difficult to apply to the complex minority. In our view, gambling harm can really only be reduced by changing the behaviour of individuals, and this objective is very much informed by the principles and practices of ‘individual-focused disciplines’ including psychology, social work and the medical sciences. Greater evidence and evaluation are needed to demonstrate how the ‘whole of population’ approaches advocated by PH are superior than ecological, individual-focused or responsible gambling approaches to reduce gambling-related harm. Article details and access conditions

Citation: Delfabbro, P., King, D.L. On the Limits and Challenges of Public Health Approaches in Addressing Gambling-Related Problems. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction 18, 844–859 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00276-2

Pushing the limits of increased casino advantage on slots: An examination of performance effects and customer reactions [subscription access article]

This field study examined performance data from reel slot games located in two casinos. The paired design incorporated games that appeared identical to the players but featured substantially different, yet concealed, pars (i.e., prices). The results revealed significantly elevated revenues for the high-par games, despite egregious price hikes, while also failing to provide compelling evidence of rational play migration to the low-par games. The latter result suggested that frequently visiting players were not able to detect differences in the pars of games, even over lengthy sample periods. These outcomes were produced by the greatest par gaps of any paired-design study. These expanded gaps also generated the greatest revenue gains within this research stream. Increasing pars may represent a rare opportunity for operators to increase revenues, without concern for eventual brand damage or loss of market share. Limitations regarding the current uses of reel pars are also revealed. Article details and access conditions

Citation: Lucas, A.F., & Spilde, K. (2020). Pushing the Limits of Increased Casino Advantage on Slots: An Examination of Performance Effects and Customer Reactions. Cornell Hospitality Quarterlyhttps://doi.org/10.1177/1938965520916436

Do EGMs have a stronger association with problem gambling than racing and casino table games? Evidence from a decade of Australian prevalence studies [subscription access article]

Although it is often assumed that electronic gaming machines (EGMs) are associated with the highest level of risk, it has proved difficult to find reliable evidence in support of this proposition. In this paper, we analysed statistics from major Australian community prevalence studies for the period 2011–2020 to investigate whether EGMs (in comparison to racing and casino table games) have a stronger association with problem gambling.

All prevalence studies reviewed used telephone sampling and the Problem Gambling Severity Index to assess problem gambling. In this paper, we examine the principal hypothesis using several lines of evidence, including whether problem gamblers are more likely to gamble and gamble regularly on EGMs as opposed to racing and casino games and if the EGM-problem gambling association was maintained after controlling for other forms of participation.

Results showed that of all gambling activities, EGMs do appear to have the strongest association with problem gambling. Despite having a disproportionately higher level of participation on racing and casino games as compared with other gamblers, problem gamblers are more likely to report regular or weekly participation in EGM gambling and this may be the reason why this activity emerges most strongly as a predictor of problem gambling in multivariate models. This finding is particularly salient, given the very high prevalence of EGM participation, compared to other risky gambling forms.

The findings underscore the importance of survey reporting that presents results in a form that can inform policy relevant research relating to the potential impact of different gambling activities. Article details and access options

Citation: Delfabbro, P., King, D.L., Browne, M. et al. Do EGMs have a Stronger Association with Problem Gambling than Racing and Casino Table Games? Evidence from a Decade of Australian Prevalence Studies. J Gambl Stud (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-020-09950-5:

Don’t say the ‘P’ word: Problem gambling is more than harm [subscription access article]

An important consequence of adoption of public health approaches in the field of gambling studies has been the increasing emphasis afforded to gambling harm. Reducing or eliminating harm has now become the overt stated mission of many government foundations and funding bodies. A by-product of these developments has been the gradual reduction of references to terms capturing the nature of the primary disorder (problem or pathological gambling or gambling disorder) in preference for what are considered to be more neutral or less ‘stigmatising’ terms (e.g. ‘people with gambling harm’). In this paper, we argue that this conflation of gambling harm with the disorder is misguided. Not only does it fail to acknowledge the validity of the disorder but it is also unjustified by evidence and may have unintended negative consequences for both people affected by gambling and the field more generally. In particular, we focus on the clinical and legal advantages of adherence to an individual-centred, pathology model of gambling disorder. Article details and access conditions

Citation: Delfabbro, P., & King, D.L. (2020). Don’t say the ‘P’ word: Problem gambling is more than harm. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00274-4

Neurophysiological correlates of the near-miss effect in gambling [subscription access article]

The near-miss effect in gambling refers to a losing situation that is (or perceived to be) close to a win by the gambler. This effect is one of the many cognitive distortions that can occur during gambling games. The main objective of the present study was to analyze the electrophysiological correlates of the near-miss effect via an event-related potential (ERP) study examining four distinct gambling outcomes: win, full miss, near-miss before the payline, and near-miss after the payline. This study comprised 23 healthy voluntary participants (10 women) with ages ranging between 19 and 34 years (M = 22.5; SD = 3.65). All participants completed the South Oaks Gambling Screen and played a computerized slot machine, programed to induce the near-miss effect and specifically designed for an ERP study. By splitting the near-miss effect in two subtypes (before and after the payline), increased feedback-related negativity (FRN) was found for the near-misses after the payline in comparison to losses and also to near-misses before the payline. Results also indicated an increased P300 amplitude for the near-misses before the payline compared both with losses and with near-misses after the payline. The results suggest that both FRN and P300 present different sensitivities to near-miss subtypes, suggesting a payline effect that is not demonstrated when the data of near-misses before and after the payline are analyzed together. This is the first study to analyze the effect of the near-miss subtype in an ERP study and confirms the findings of previous behavioral studies. Article access details

Citation: Dores, A.R., Rocha, A., & Paiva, T. et al. (2020). Neurophysiological correlates of the near-miss effect in gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-020-09937-2

A systematic review evaluating screening instruments for gambling disorder finds lack of adequate evidence [subscription access article]

To date, no research has systematically evaluated screening instruments for gambling disorder to assess their accuracy and the quality of the research. This systematic review evaluated screening instruments for gambling disorder to inform decision-makers about choices for population-level screening.

Study Design and Setting
On May 22, 2017 and January 4, 2019, we searched PubMed, PsycInfo, EMBASE, and Cochrane for studies that evaluated screening instruments for gambling disorder. Studies were included if (1) the screening instrument was in English, (2) the screening instrument was compared to a reference standard semi-structured interview based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or International Classification of Diseases diagnoses of gambling disorder, and (3) data were reported on psychometric properties of the instrument.

We identified 31 different screening instruments from 60 studies. Only three instruments from three separate studies were eligible for inclusion in the systematic review.

Few screening instruments for gambling disorder have been validated with sufficient methodological quality to be recommended for use across a large health system. Link to the article

Citation: Otto, J.L., Smolenski, D.J., Garvey Wilson, A.L., Evatt, D.P., Campbell, M.S., Beech, E.H., Workman, D.E., Morgan, R.L., O’Gallagher, K., & Belsher, B.E. (2020). A systematic review evaluating screening instruments for gambling disorder finds lack of adequate evidence. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, In Press, Journal Pre-proof.

‘Everyone knows grandma’. Pathways to gambling venues in regional Australia [subscription article]

In regional Australia, families (including children), attend community venues that contain gambling products, such as electronic gambling machines (EGMs), for a range of non-gambling reasons. However, there is a gap in research that seeks to understand how these venues may become embedded into family social practices. Drawing on Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and cultural capital, this paper aimed to explore factors that influence family decisions to attend venues and perceptions of risk associated with children’s exposure to gambling products. Face-to-face qualitative interviews were conducted with 31 parents who attended community gambling venues with their children, in New South Wales, Australia. Families attended venues for three key reasons, first because of the influence of others in their social networks, second for regular social activities and third because of structural factors such as a lack of alternative, affordable, family friendly environments in their local area. Despite recognizing the harm associated with EGMs, parents distanced themselves from EGM harm with all parents perceiving venues to be an appropriate space for families. Research in this study indicates that family social practices within venues affect perceptions of risk associated with community gambling venues. The impact of these practices on longer-term health requires more investigation by public health and health promotion researchers and practitioners. Health promotion initiatives should consider identifying alternative sources of support and/or developing alternative social spaces for families in regional communities that do not contain gambling products. Link to the article

Citation: Bestman, A., Thomas, S.L. Randle, M., Pitt, H., Cassidy, R., Daube, M. (2019). ‘Everyone knows grandma’. Pathways to gambling venues in regional Australia, Health Promotion International, , daz120, https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/daz120

Social capital and gambling: Evidence from Australia [subscription-access article]

The prevalence of problem gambling in many countries necessitates research that examines factors influencing excessive and addictive consumption. We consider how social capital impacts gambling participation for a large representative sample of the Australian population. Specifically, we examine the association between social capital and gambling addiction using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey. We address the endogeneity of social capital by instrumenting for social capital using an urban/rural reversed measure of ethnic diversity. Our main findings suggest that higher levels of social capital are associated with lower gambling risks measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index. This general finding is robust to alternative ways of measuring social capital and gambling, and alternative estimation approaches. We also find that the effect of social capital is stronger in the case of problem gamblers compared to gamblers in other risk categories.
Link to article details and access conditions

APA Citation: Awaworyi Churchill, S. & Farrell, L. (2019). Social capital and gambling: Evidence from Australia. Journal of Gambling Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-019-09901-9

What can be done to reduce the public stigma of gambling disorder? Lessons from other stigmatised conditions [subscription access article].

Abstract: Gambling is embedded in Australian cultural history, and perceived as a normal, legitimate leisure activity. Despite this normalisation, people who experience gambling problems are heavily stigmatised which can lead to a variety of harms that extend beyond the individual. The stigma from the general public appears to be based on a stereotype of a typical “problem gambler”—selfish, greedy, impulsive and irresponsible. However, research suggests that people experiencing gambling problems have widely varying characteristics and do not conform to this stereotype. Regardless of whether the stigma is justified, it is both present and problematic. Gamblers experiencing problems delay help-seeking due to feelings of shame and, not unwarranted, expectations of negative judgement because of the heavy stigma associated with the stereotype. As stigma is a primary barrier to treatment and a reason why gambling problems can take longer to acknowledge, it is important to understand and address how stigma can be reduced to minimise the negative consequences of gambling on individuals, their families and friends and the wider community. There is little research on reducing gambling-related stigma, so there is a need to examine strategies used in other stigmatised conditions, such as mental health, to understand the general principles of effective stigma reduction measures. Because gambling disorder is unique, well-hidden and consequently not well understood, there is a need to recognise that techniques used in other domains may differ in their effectiveness within the context of gambling stigma. Article details and access conditions

Citation: Brown, K.L., & Russell, A.M.T. What can be done to reduce the public stigma of gambling disorder? Lessons from other stigmatised conditions. Journal of Gambling Studies. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-019-09890-9.