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Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Daniel L. King
,
Sally M. Gainsbury
,
Paul H. Delfabbro
,
Nerilee Hing
, and
Brett Abarbanel

Background and Aims

Gambling and gaming activities have become increasingly recognised as sharing many common features at a structural and aesthetic level. Both have also been implicated as contributing to harm through excessive involvement. Despite this, relatively little attention has been given to the fundamental characteristics that differentiate these two classes of activity, especially in situations where the boundaries between them may be particularly hard to distinguish. This is evident, for example, in digital games that incorporate free and paid virtual currencies or items, as well as the capacity for wagering. Such overlaps create problems for regulatory classifications, screening, diagnosis and treatment. Is the problem related to the gambling or gaming content?

Methods

In this paper, we review the principal sources of overlap between the activity classes in terms of several dimensions: interactivity, monetisation, betting and wagering, types of outcomes, structural fidelity, context and centrality of content, and advertising.

Results

We argue that gaming is principally defined by its interactivity, skill-based play, and contextual indicators of progression and success. In contrast, gambling is defined by betting and wagering mechanics, predominantly chance-determined outcomes, and monetisation features that involve risk and payout to the player. A checklist measure is provided, with practical examples, to examine activities according to features of design and function, which may inform guidelines for policy makers, researchers and treatment providers.

Discussion and conclusions

We suggest that, in some instances, using category-based nomenclature (e.g., “gambling-like game”) may be too vague or cumbersome to adequately organise our understanding of new gaming/gambling hybrid activities.

Open access

Abstract

Background and Aims

Excessive time and money spent on gambling can result in harms, not only to people experiencing a gambling problem but also to their close family and friends (“concerned significant others”; CSOs). The current study aimed to explore whether, and to what extent, CSOs experience decrements to their wellbeing due to another person’s gambling.

Methods

We analysed data from The Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA; N = 19,064) and the Canadian Quinte Longitudinal Study (QLS; N = 3,904). Participants either self-identified as CSOs (QLS) or were identified by living in a household with a person classified in the problem gambling category by the PGSI (HILDA). Subjective well-being was measured using the Personal Wellbeing Index and single-item questions on happiness and satisfaction with life.

Results

CSOs reported lower subjective wellbeing than non-CSOs across both countries and on all three wellbeing measures. CSO status remained a significant predictor of lower wellbeing after controlling for demographic and socio-economic factors, and own-gambling problems. There were no significant differences across various relationships to the gambler, by gender, or between household and non-household CSOs.

Discussion and Conclusions

Gambling-related harms experienced by CSOs was reliably associated with a decrease in wellbeing. This decrement to CSO’s wellbeing was not as strong as that experienced by the person with the first-order gambling problem. Nevertheless, wellbeing decrements to CSOs are not limited to those living with a person with gambling problems in the household and thus affect many people.

Open access

Abstract

Background and aims

Concerned significant others (CSOs) can experience gambling-related harm, impacting their health and wellbeing. However, this harm varies depending on the type and closeness of the relationship with the person who gambles. We sought to determine the type and closeness of relationships that are more likely to experience harm from another person's gambling, and examine which aspects of health and wellbeing are related to this harm.

Methods

We examined survey data from 1,131 Australian adults who identified as being close to someone experiencing a gambling problem. The survey included information on relationship closeness, gambling-related harm (GHS-20-AO), and a broad range of health and wellbeing measures; including the Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI), the 12-item Short Form Survey (SF-12), and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Short Form (PANAS-SF).

Results

CSOs in relationships where finances and responsibilities are shared were more likely to be harmed by another person's gambling problem, particularly partners (current and ex) and family members. This harm was most strongly associated with high levels of distress and negative emotions, impacting the CSO's ability to function properly at work or perform other responsibilities.

Discussion and Conclusions

Support and treatment services for CSOs should consider addressing the psychological distress and negative emotions commonly experienced by CSOs.

Open access

Abstract

Background and aims

A literature exists on the structural characteristics of electronic gambling machines (EGMs), which are design innovations that can promote spending excessive time and money on these games. Fixed-odds sports betting products, where bettors place sports bets against a bookmaker, have also seen significant innovations in recent years. Despite some differences between these gambling products, similar structural characteristics could also be relevant to sports betting. The aim was to review previous research on contemporary fixed-odds sports betting products, and to identify whether structural characteristics from the EGM literature are also relevant to sports betting.

Methods

Structural characteristics uncovered by two influential reviews of EGMs were identified, and their relevance to fixed-odds sports betting products discussed via a narrative review.

Results

Structural characteristics of payout interval and potential betting frequency (in-play betting), multiplier potential (accumulators, complex bets, multis), win probability and payout ratio (all bets), bettor involvement (custom sports betting products, cash out), skill required (all bets), and near-misses (accumulators, complex bets, multis) were all identified in modern fixed-odds sports betting products.

Discussion and conclusions

Fixed-odds sports betting products have increasingly incorporated structural characteristics previously found in EGMs. Future research could further assess the extent to which these structural characteristics contribute to fixed-odds sports bettors spending excessive amounts of time and money while betting. These findings can help guide further sports betting research, contribute to an improved understanding of the potential universality of gambling product design, and inform policy.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Alex M. T. Russell
,
Nerilee Hing
,
Philip Newall
,
Nancy Greer
,
Cassandra K. Dittman
,
Hannah Thorne
, and
Matthew Rockloff

Abstract

Background and aims

Simulated gambling products, like loot boxes and social casino games, contain gambling elements, but are not classified as gambling. They are available to minors, raising concerns about a “gateway effect” into gambling. This study examined the time course of young people's engagement in simulated and monetary gambling, and associations between simulated gambling and gambling problems and harm. A necessary, although not sufficient, condition for simulated games leading to real money gambling is that simulated play must come first.

Method

Participants were 1,026 young adults (aged 18–25 years) who played video games in the last year. They reported the age at which they first took part in seven simulated and twelve monetary gambling products, and current gambling problems and harm.

Results

First use of loot boxes and video games with gambling content tended to precede monetary gambling. Forms where gambling is a core gameplay element, such as social casino and demonstration games, tended to follow some monetary gambling forms. Engagement in most simulated gambling products was associated with greater harm from monetary gambling.

Discussion

The findings leave open the possibility of a catalyst pathway from youth engagement in loot boxes and games with gambling content to later monetary gambling, but causal psychosocial mechanisms remain unclear. However, a pathway from social casino and demonstration games to monetary gambling appears less likely, which may instead reflect containment or substitution effects. Simulated gambling disproportionately attracts youth who are vulnerable to gambling problems and harm, indicating the need for consumer protection measures.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Matthew Rockloff
,
Matthew Browne
,
Alex M T Russell
,
Nerilee Hing
,
Tess Armstrong
, and
Nancy Greer

Abstract

Background and aims

Legacy gambling harms are negative consequences of gambling that extend past periods of low risk, moderate risk and problem gambling. Gambling harm is typically measured within a 12-month timeframe and is often restricted to examining harm amongst active gamblers. The present research aimed to explore whether people experienced gambling harms 12 months or more after the resolution of at-risk or problem gambling, and how long these legacy harms lasted.

Methods

An online survey was conducted in New Zealand with past and current gamblers and concerned significant others (CSOs) of gamblers, N = 1,240 (50.8% female), that asked them about both past and current gambling harms.

Results

A majority of both gamblers and CSOs of gamblers indicated that they still suffered from gambling harm even after most of their behavioural issues with gambling had been resolved, 12+ months ago. Legacy gambling harms reduced over time, with harms diminishing most quickly in the early years, and having an average half-life of 4 years. Harms involving community-relationships, church involvement, and domestic and other violence resolved more quickly than others.

Discussion and conclusions

Legacy harms are common among ex-problem gamblers and should be considered in any full accounting of the impacts of gambling.

Conclusion

Understanding the time course and persistence of legacy harms from gambling can provide gamblers, treatment professionals and public health experts with insights into how to address gambling's long-term consequences.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Catherine Tulloch
,
Nerilee Hing
,
Matthew Browne
,
Alex M. T. Russell
,
Matthew Rockloff
, and
Vijay Rawat

Abstract

Aims

Understanding how gambling harm is distributed is essential to inform effective harm reduction measures. This first national Australian study of gambling harm-to-self examined the extent, distribution, risk factors, and health related quality of life (HRQoL) impacts of this harm.

Methods

A Random Digit Dialling sample of 15,000 Australian adults was weighted to key population variables. Key measures included the Gambling Harms Scale-10 (GHS-10), PGSI, SF-6D, gambling behaviours, and demographics. Analyses included ordinal logistic regression.

Results

Amongst gamblers, 14.7% reported harm on the GHS-10, including 1.9% reporting high-level harm. While high-level harm occurred mainly in the problem gambling group (77.3%), other PGSI groups accounted for most of the more prevalent low (98.5%) and moderate (87.2%) harms reported. Proximal predictors of greater harm were use of online gambling and more frequent gambling on electronic gaming machines (EGMs), race betting sports betting, poker, skin gambling, scratchies, and loot box purchasing. Distal predictors were being younger, male, single, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and speaking a non-English language at home. At the population level, the greatest aggregate HRQoL impacts were amongst lower-risk gamblers, confirming the results of other studies regarding the ‘prevention paradox’.

Conclusions

The distribution of harm across gambler risk groups indicates the need for preventive measures, not just interventions for problem gambling. Reducing harm requires modifying product features that amplify their risk, especially for EGMs, race betting and sports betting that are both inherently risky and widely used. Gambling harm exacerbates health disparities for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, requiring targeted resources and support.

Open access

Abstract

Background and aims

Loot boxes are a common feature in video games where players win, buy or are gifted a virtual box or other container that is unwrapped to reveal virtual items of value, such as skins, weapons, in-game currency or special abilities. The current study aimed to relate the use of loot boxes to gambling problems and harm.

Methods

An online survey was conducted with 1,954 adolescents and young adults from NSW Australia, 59.9% female (aged 12–24), recruited by online panel aggregator, Qualtrics.

Results

Buying and selling loot boxes was associated with higher 12-month gambling frequency and gambling problems in young adults, aged 18–24 (Problem Gambling Severity Index). Young adults who bought loot boxes additionally had more gambling-related harms (Short Gambling Harms Screen). Young women, aged 18–24, who opened, bought and/or sold loot boxes spent more money in the last 12 months on gambling. In adolescents, aged 12–17, buying loot boxes was similarly associated with gambling problems (DSM-IV-MR-J). Furthermore, adolescent girls who bought and/or sold loot boxes viewed gambling more positively than other girls (Attitudes Towards Gambling Scale). There was no evidence, however, that longer-term experience in opening or purchasing loot boxes, a differentiating feature of the survey, is associated with current gambling problems.

Discussion and conclusions

This study suggests that loot boxes may be attractive to people who are already predisposed to engage in other gambling, and females who use loot boxes may have unique vulnerabilities to gambling problems that could be explored in future research.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Alex M.T. Russell
,
Nerilee Hing
,
Gabrielle Maria Bryden
,
Hannah Thorne
,
Matthew J Rockloff
, and
Matthew Browne

Abstract

Background and aims

COVID-19 resulted in the shutdown of almost all sporting competitions and most venue-based gambling opportunities. This study examines how wagering operators in Australia responded, by examining their advertising.

Methods

The study compared Twitter activity during lockdown (March–May 2020) to the previous year for four major wagering operators.

Results

Wagering operators continued to advertise in earnest, changing their marketing mix to include more race betting content, as races continued to operate. Most also promoted the only sports available, such as table tennis or esports. When sports resumed, sports betting advertising quickly returned to normal, or exceeded previous levels. Despite more content being available in the case of two operators, engagement from the public during lockdown was similar to or lower than previously.

Discussion and conclusion

These results indicate that gambling operators can adjust quickly to major changes. These shifts appear to have been successful, with the increase in race betting during this period almost completely offsetting the decreases in sports betting. This is likely due in part to changes in advertising, which have been associated with increased betting activity, particularly amongst vulnerable people. Responsible gambling messages were virtually non-existent on Twitter, which contrasts with mandatory requirements in other media. The study highlights that regulatory changes to advertising, e.g., banning some content, are likely to be met with substitution of content, rather than reduction, unless advertising volume is also capped. The study also highlights the adaptive capacity of the gambling industry in the face of major disruption to supply.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Nerilee Hing
,
Alex M. T. Russell
,
Gabrielle M. Bryden
,
Philip Newall
,
Daniel L. King
,
Matthew Rockloff
,
Matthew Browne
, and
Nancy Greer

Abstract

Background and aims

Skin gambling uses in-game items (skins) acquired in video games, to gamble on esports, games of chance, other competitive events and privately with friends. This study examined characteristics of adolescent skin gamblers, their engagement in monetary gambling, and relationships between skin gambling and at risk/problem gambling.

Methods

Two samples of Australian adolescents aged 12–17 years were recruited to an online survey through advertisements (n = 843) and an online panel provider (n = 826).

Results

In both samples, past-month skin gamblers (n = 466 advertisements sample; n = 185 online panel sample) were more likely to have lower wellbeing, score as having an internet gaming disorder on the IGD, engage in more types of monetary gambling, and meet criteria for problem gambling on the DSM-IV-MR-J. Past-month skin gambling uniquely predicted problem gambling when controlling for past-month gambling on 11 monetary forms and the total number of monetary gambling forms.

Discussion and conclusions

Underage participation in skin gambling is a growing concern. The strong convergence between engagement in skin gambling and monetary gambling suggests common risk factors may increase the propensity of some adolescents to gamble on these multiple forms. Nonetheless, past-month skin gambling predicted problem gambling even when controlling for past-month monetary gambling, indicating its unique contribution to gambling problems and harm. While the study was based on non-probability samples, its results strengthen the case for regulatory reforms, age restrictions and public health education to prevent underage skin gambling and its potentially harmful consequences for children and young people.

Open access