Debiasing strategies for problem gambling: Using decision science to inform clinical interventions [subscription access article].

Purpose of Review: This review seeks to increase awareness of the broad range of interventions for problem gambling that focus on mitigating biased beliefs and behaviors. A secondary goal of this review is to stimulate thinking surrounding the use of so-called debiasing strategies within the areas of responsible gambling, prevention, and treatment of gambling problems. This is accomplished by classifying gambling interventions according to a taxonomy of debiasing strategies which is used more broadly within the field of decision science.
Recent Findings: Many interventions use cognitive and process-driven (known as technological) debiasing strategies. Furthermore, advances in technology to include digital games and online programs have the power to increase both the efficacy and appeal of such approaches. Unfortunately, far fewer interventions have taken advantage of affective and motivational debiasing strategies.
Summary: There are potential insights to be had and new directions to be explored by incorporating debiasing strategies and decision science into investigations of problem gambling interventions. Possibilities include identifying and examining understudied areas, combining debiasing strategies with existing treatments for problem gambling, developing multimodal debiasing interventions, and focusing explicitly on process-driven approaches. Article details and access conditions

Citation: Broussard, J.D. & Wulfert, E. (2019). Debiasing strategies for problem gambling: Using decision science to inform clinical interventions. Current Addiction Reports. DOI:

Challenges of gaming disorder: Suggestions from a public health perspective [open-access article].

Introduction: Based on the results from numerous studies and discussions by expert groups organised by the WHO, gaming disorder is recognised as a mental disorder and is listed in the chapter of mental, behavioural and neurodevelopmental disorders in the recently released International Classification of Diseases, 11th Version (ICD-11). Gaming disorder, gambling disorder and substance use disorder belong to the same category of mental disorder. This change will help improve the public’s awareness and understanding of gaming disorder. Meanwhile, it will encourage related research and develop scientific and effective interventions for the purpose of negative consequences reduction. Short article available online

Reference: Zhao, M., & Hao., W. (2019). Challenges of gaming disorder: Suggestions from a public health perspective. General Psychiatry, 32(e100086). doi: 10.1136/gpsych-2019-100086

Randomized controlled trial of an Internet intervention for problem gambling provided with or without access to an Internet intervention for co-occurring mental health distress [open-access article]

Background and aims: The current randomized controlled trial tested whether there was benefit to providing an online gambling intervention and a separate self-help mental health intervention for anxiety and depression (i.e. MoodGYM) (G + MH), compared to only a gambling intervention (G only) among people with co-occurring gambling problems and mental health distress. The primary outcome of interest was improvement in gambling outcomes. Secondary analyses also tested for the impact of the combined intervention on depression and anxiety outcomes.
Methods: Participants who were concerned about their gambling were recruited to help evaluate an online intervention for gamblers. Those who met criteria for problem gambling were randomized to receive either the G only or the G + MH intervention. Participants were also assessed for current mental health distress at baseline, with three quarters (n = 214) reporting significant current distress and form the sample for this study. Participants were followed-up at 3- and 6-months to assess changes in gambling status, and improvements in depression and anxiety.
Results: Follow-up rates were poor (47% completed at least one follow-up). While there were significant reductions in gambling outcomes, as well as on measures of current depression and anxiety, there was no significant difference in outcomes between participants receiving the G only versus the G + MH intervention.
Discussion and conclusion: There does not appear to be a benefit to providing access to an additional online mental health intervention to our online gambling intervention, at least among participants who are concerned about their gambling.
Trial registration: NCT02800096; Registration date: June 14, 2016.
Article available online

Reference: Cunningham, J.A., Hodgins, D.C., Mackenzie, C.S., Godinho, A., Schell, C., Kushnir, V., & Hendershot, C.S. (2019). Randomized controlled trial of an Internet intervention for problem gambling provided with or without access to an Internet intervention for co-occurring mental health distress. Internet Interventions, 17(September, 100239).

Consumer perspectives of a multi-venue gambling self-exclusion program: A qualitative process analysis

Available online – from the Journal of Gambling Studies

Abstract: Self-exclusion is an important harm minimization strategy implemented by gambling operators to restrict a problem gambler’s access to gambling opportunities. Aspects of self-exclusion, including low uptake and non-compliance, limit the effectiveness of programs. Research that considers the consumer perspective is needed to enhance the perceived utility of self-exclusion in the target audience. Twenty interviews were conducted with current (n = 13) and former (n = 7) participants of a multi-venue self-exclusion program for land-based gaming machine venues in New South Wales, Australia. Participants were asked open-ended questions about their experiences and opinions of the program, including its strengths and weaknesses, and suggested improvements for future consumers. Overall, participants found self-exclusion beneficial. However, several shortcomings of the program were expressed, including lack of available public information and overly complicated registration processes. Participants lacked confidence in venues’ willingness and ability to identify non-compliant gamblers and highlighted the need for vastly improved detection systems. The quality of interactions with venue staff in relation to self-exclusion were mixed; counsellor support, however, was perceived as important from beginning to end of a self-exclusion period. Results suggest that gambling operators should increase marketing efforts to promote the availability and benefits of self-exclusion. Investigation of strategies to streamline registration processes and to augment detection systems with new technologies was supported. Venue staff may benefit from training in appropriate self-exclusion facilitation procedures. Gambling operators should aim to foster strong links between self-exclusion programs and professional gambling counselling services. Access full article

Reference: Pickering, D., Nong, Z., Gainsbury, S.M. & Blaszczynski, A. (2019). Consumer perspectives of a multi-venue gambling self-exclusion program: A qualitative process analysis. Journal of Gambling Studies, 41.

Therapist-delivered and self-help interventions for gambling problems: A review of contents (open access article)

Simone Rodda, Stephanie S. Merkouris, Charles Abraham, David C. Hodgins, Sean Cowlishaw & Nicki A. Dowling. (2018). Journal of Behavioral Addictions
doi: 10.1556/2006.7.2018.44

Abstract: Background and aims
To date, no systematic approach to identifying the content and characteristics of psychological interventions used to reduce gambling or problem gambling has been developed. This study aimed to develop a reliable classification system capable of identifying intervention characteristics that could, potentially, account for greater or lesser effectiveness.

Discussion: This research provides a tool that allows systematic identification of intervention characteristics, thereby enabling consideration, not only of whether interventions are effective or not, but also of which domain-relevant characteristics account for greater or lesser effectiveness. The taxonomy also facilitates standardized description of intervention content in a field in which many diverse interventions have been evaluated.

Conclusion: Application of this coding tool has the potential to accelerate the development of more efficient and effective therapist-delivered and self-directed interventions to reduce gambling problems. Full article

Demographic, Behavioural and Normative Risk Factors for Gambling Problems Amongst Sports Bettors

Sports betting is growing exponentially, is heavily marketed and successfully targets young adult males. Associated gambling problems are increasing. Therefore, understanding risk factors for problem gambling amongst sports bettors is an increasingly important area of research to inform the appropriate design and targeting of public health and treatment interventions. This study aimed to identify demographic, behavioural and normative risk factors for gambling problems amongst sports bettors…

Source: Hing, N., Russell, A. M. T., Vitartas, P., & Lamont, M. (2015). Demographic, Behavioural and Normative Risk Factors for Gambling Problems Amongst Sports Bettors. Journal of Gambling Studies, 1–17.