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

Abstract

Background and aims

Purchasing loot boxes in digital games is akin to gambling as it involves risking money for a chance-based reward of uncertain value. Research has linked buying loot boxes to problem gambling amongst adolescents, but has not examined co-occurring gambling participation. This study examined links between loot box purchasing and problem gambling amongst adolescents while controlling for monetary gambling participation.

Methods

Two survey samples of Australians aged 12–17 years were recruited through advertisements (n = 843) and online panels (n = 826). They included n = 421 and n = 128 adolescents, respectively, who met criteria for problem gambling.

Results

Past-month loot box purchasing was significantly related to gambling problems in bivariate analyses. When including age, gender and past-month monetary gambling, loot box purchases were still associated with at-risk and problem gambling in both samples. As expected, these other predictors attenuated the predictive value of recent loot box purchases in relation to gambling problems. The odds-ratios, nevertheless, were still in the predicted direction and remained significant. When controlling for monetary gambling, age and gender, recent loot box purchasing increased the odds of problem gambling 3.7 to 6.0 times, and at-risk gambling 2.8 to 4.3 times.

Discussion and conclusions

While causal relationships between loot box purchasing and problem gambling remain unclear, the results indicate that loot boxes disproportionately attract adolescents experiencing gambling problems, adding to the financial stress already caused by gambling. Consumer protection measures, youth and parental education, and age restrictions on loot box games are needed to protect young people.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Nerilee Hing
,
Alex M. T. Russell
,
Catherine Tulloch
,
Lisa Lole
,
Matthew Rockloff
,
Matthew Browne
,
Hannah Thorne
, and
Philip Newall

Abstract

Background and aims

Smartphone, computer and land-based betting platforms each have distinctive features. This study examined 1) preferred features of sports betting platforms amongst young adults and 2) whether feature preferences vary with gambling severity.

Methods

The study surveyed 616 Australians aged 18–29 years who bet at-least monthly on sports, esports and/or daily fantasy sports. Participants provided a simple rating of the importance of 24 features of betting platforms and then completed a discrete choice experiment to indicate their preferences amongst different groups of features.

Results

Smartphones were the only platform providing all preferred features. The most important feature was ability to bet instantly 24/7 from any location, followed by electronic financial transactions. Less important features were ability to access betting information online and to bet with multiple operators. Social and privacy features, and access to promotions, did not significantly predict platform choice. The experiment found no significant differences in preferred features by gambling severity group or by gender. The non-experimental descriptive data, however, indicated that participants in the moderate risk/problem gambling categories placed significantly more importance on privacy, ability to place in-play bets, bet with cash, bet with a credit card, see frequent promotions, and bet with multiple operators.

Discussion and conclusions

Most features that bettors prefer can intensify betting. Curtailment of betting promotions, in-play betting, and credit card betting are measures that can assist higher-risk gamblers without unduly affecting other gamblers. Consumer protection tools, including mandatory pre-commitment, need strengthening to help counter the unique risks of smartphone betting.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Nerilee Hing
,
Matthew Browne
,
Matthew Rockloff
,
Alex M. T. Russell
,
Catherine Tulloch
,
Lisa Lole
,
Hannah Thorne
, and
Philip Newall

Abstract

Background and aims

Smartphones extend the situational characteristics of sports betting beyond those available with land-based and computer platforms. This study examined 1) the role of situational features and betting platforms in harmful betting behaviours and short-term betting harm, and 2) whether people with more gambling problems have preferred situational features, engage more in harmful betting behaviours, and experience more severe short-term betting harm.

Methods

An ecological momentary assessment analysed 1,378 betting sessions on sports, esports or daily fantasy sports, reported by 267 respondents (18–29 years; 50.9% male) over 10 weeks.

Results

Factor analysis revealed five situational features of betting sessions: 1) quick, easy access from home, 2) ability to bet anywhere anytime, 3) privacy while betting, 4) greater access to promotions and betting options, and 5) ability to use electronic financial transactions. Regression models underpinned the analyses. Greater short-term betting harm was significantly associated with the ability to bet anywhere anytime, privacy when betting, and greater access to promotions and betting options. Betting sessions when these features were prioritised were more likely to involve impulsive betting, use of betting inducements, and betting with more operators. Respondents with more gambling problems were more likely to prioritise privacy and the ability to bet anywhere anytime; and to bet on in-game events, use promotional inducements, bet with more operators, and report greater betting harm.

Discussion and conclusions

Certain situational features of sports betting are empirically associated with engagement and subsequent harm. Only smartphone betting combines all three features associated with betting harm.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Matthew Browne
,
Paul Delfabbro
,
Hannah B. Thorne
,
Catherine Tulloch
,
Matthew J. Rockloff
,
Nerilee Hing
,
Nicki A Dowling
, and
Matthew Stevens

Abstract

Background and aims

It is well understood that engagement with some forms of gambling, like EGMs, is riskier than other forms. However, while reports of associations are common, few studies have attempted to evaluate and compare the relative risk of all available forms, and none have estimated the relative contribution of each form to the total burden of gambling problems (GP) in a population.

Methods

Using an aggregated dataset of national and state-based prevalence studies in Australia (N = 71,103), we estimated prevalence and unique effects of frequency of engagement on each form on GP. Two alternative numerical methods were then applied to infer the relative contribution of each form to the total amount of GP.

Results

EGMs are responsible for 51%–57% of gambling problems in Australia, and 90% of gambling problems are attributable to EGMs, casino, race, and sports betting. Casino table games and EGMs are equally risky at the individual level, but the former contribute far less to problems due to low participation. Bingo and lottery play show no statistically detectable risk for GP.

Discussion and conclusion

The results illustrate which forms present the greatest population burden and illuminate the reasons why. EGMs have an outsized impact. EGM uniquely combines high risk conditional on play, with a high participation rate and a high frequency of play among participants. This is in contrast to risky but less commonly played casino games, and prevalent but non-risky forms like lotteries. We conclude that EGM regulation should be a primary focus of policy action in Australia. More innovative policy ideas relating to EGMs should be tested due to the disproportionate impact of this product type.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Alex M.T. Russell
,
Matthew Browne
,
Nerilee Hing
,
Matthew Rockloff
,
Philip Newall
,
Nicki A. Dowling
,
Stephanie Merkouris
,
Daniel L. King
,
Matthew Stevens
,
Anne H. Salonen
,
Helen Breen
,
Nancy Greer
,
Hannah B. Thorne
,
Tess Visintin
,
Vijay Rawat
, and
Linda Woo

Abstract

Background

Electronic gaming machines (EGMs) are one of the most harmful forms of gambling at an individual level. It is unclear whether restriction of EGM functions and accessibility results in meaningful reductions in population-level gambling harm.

Methods

A natural policy experiment using a large (N = 15,000) national dataset weighted to standard population variables was employed to compare estimates of gambling problems between Australian residents in Western Australia (WA), where EGMs are restricted to one venue and have different structural features, to residents in other Australian jurisdictions where EGMs are widely accessible in casinos, hotels and clubs. Accessibility of other gambling forms is similar across jurisdictions.

Results

Gambling participation was higher in WA, but EGM participation was approximately half that of the rest of Australia. Aggregate gambling problems and harm were about one-third lower in WA, and self-reported attribution of harm from EGMs by gamblers and affected others was 2.7× and 4× lower, respectively. Mediation analyses found that less frequent EGM use in WA accounted for the vast majority of the discrepancy in gambling problems (indirect path = −0.055, 95% CI −0.071; −0.038). Moderation analyses found that EGMs are the form most strongly associated with problems, and the strength of this relationship did not differ significantly across jurisdictions.

Discussion

Lower harm from gambling in WA is attributable to restricted accessibility of EGMs, rather than different structural features. There appears to be little transfer of problems to other gambling forms. These results suggest that restricting the accessibility of EGMs substantially reduces gambling harm.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Nerilee Hing
,
Alex M.T. Russell
,
Vijay Rawat
,
Gabrielle M. Bryden
,
Matthew Browne
,
Matthew Rockloff
,
Hannah B. Thorne
,
Philip Newall
,
Nicki A. Dowling
,
Stephanie S. Merkouris
, and
Matthew Stevens

Abstract

Background and aims

COVID-19 lockdowns limited access to gambling but simultaneously elevated psychosocial stressors. This study assessed the relative effects of these changes on gambling risk status during and after the Australian COVID-19 lockdown from late-March to late-May 2020.

Methods

The study administered three surveys to people who had gambled within the past year at T1. Wave 1 asked about before (T1, N = 2,125) and during lockdown (T2, N = 2,125). Subsequent surveys focused on one year (T3; N = 649) and two years after lockdown (T4, N = 458). The dependent variable was changes in reporting any problem gambling symptoms (PGSI 0 vs 1+). Bivariate analyses and multinomial logistic regression tested for significant associations with: demographics, psychosocial stressors (perceived stress, psychological distress, loneliness, health anxiety about COVID, financial hardship, stressful life events), gambling participation and gambling frequency.

Results

Gambling participation and at-risk gambling decreased between T1 and T2, increased at T3, with little further change at T4. When gambling availability was curtailed, decreased gambling frequency on EGMs, casino games, sports betting or race betting, and lower psychosocial stress, were associated with transitions from at-risk to non-problem gambling. When gambling availability resumed, increased EGM gambling frequency, decreased online gambling frequency, and higher psychosocial stress were associated with transitions from non-problem to at-risk gambling.

Discussion and conclusions

Gambling availability appears a stronger influence on gambling problems, at the population level, than psychosocial risk factors. Reducing the supply of high-risk gambling products, particularly EGMs, is likely to reduce gambling harm.

Open access