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.

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Player Behavioral Tracking and Personalized Feedback in Online Gambling: Implications for Prevention and Treatment of Problem Gambling (full text)

Edgerton, J. D., Biegun, J., & Roberts, L. W.

In recent years, participation in online gambling has been growing at a significant rate, as have concerns over its connection to problem gambling. The relationship between online access and problem gambling is complex. On one hand the nature of online gambling appears to invite potential for problematic gambling; on the other hand it is also well-suited to the incorporation of sophisticated RG tools that can help prevent excessive gambling. This article provides a brief overview of research on the efficacy of several increasingly available RG tools – limit-setting, in game “pop-up” messages and player behavioral tracking and personalized feedback – and the potential of these tools, used in concert, to increase gambler’s self-awareness and self-monitoring to reduce risk across a broad spectrum of gambling involvement. In addition to weighing the growing evidence for the preventative utility of such RG strategies, we also consider the burgeoning interest in their therapeutic/clinical potential, both as part of self-guided or therapist-assisted online interventions and as adjunct to conventional in-person clinical services. We conclude that, limitations notwithstanding, the evidence for online RG tools that incorporate player behavioral tracking and personalized feedback is quite encouraging when it comes to reducing problem gambling risk; and that, although less far along, research on the treatment potential of interventions incorporating such technology is also promising and merits further study.

The Case for Using Personally Relevant and Emotionally Stimulating Gambling Messages as a Gambling Harm-Minimisation Strategy (open access)

Harris, A., Parke, A., & Griffiths, M. D.
Emotions typically exert powerful, enduring, and often predictable influences over decision-making. However, emotion-based decision-making is seen as a mediator of impulsive and reckless gambling behaviour, where emotion may be seen as the antithesis of controlled and rational decision-making, a proposition supported by recent neuroimaging evidence. The present paper argues that the same emotional mechanisms can be used to influence a gambler to cease gambling, by focusing their emotional decision-making on positive external and personally relevant factors, such as familial impact or longer term financial factors. Emotionally stimulating messages may also have the advantage of capturing attention above and beyond traditionally responsible gambling messaging. This is important given the highly emotionally aroused states often experienced by both gamblers and problem gamblers, where attentional activation thresholds for external stimuli such as messages may be increased.

The Effects of Pop-up Harm Minimisation Messages on Electronic Gaming Machine Gambling Behaviour in New Zealand

In New Zealand a simple pop-up message feature that provides gambling session information and forces a break in play is mandatory on all electronic gaming machines in all venues (EGMs). Previous research has demonstrated small effects of more sophisticated pop-up messages tested predominantly in laboratory environments. The present research examined gambler engagement with and views on the New Zealand pop-up messages and on the relationship between pop-up messages and EGM expenditure. A sample of gamblers was recruited at casino and non-casino (pub) EGM venues. Most participants were aware of pop-up messages (57 %) and many saw them often (38 %). Among gamblers who reported seeing pop-up messages, half read the message content, and a quarter believed that pop-up messages helped them control the amount of money they spend on gambling. Participants who reported being likely to stop gambling in response to pop-up messages spent significantly less money on gambling when variables that were independently associated with EGM expenditure were controlled for. A modest harm minimisation effect of the pop-up message feature that has been operating in New Zealand for 5 years was evident. Suggestions for improvement of the harm minimisation potential of the current pop-up message feature are discussed.