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Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Cailem Murray Boyle
,
Matthew Browne
,
Matthew J. Rockloff
, and
Hannah B. Thorne

Abstract

Background and aims

The Short Gambling Harm Screen (SGHS) is currently the most frequently applied dedicated measure of gambling-related harm (GRH), though concerns relating to scale validity have been expressed. The current study aimed to address criticisms that several SGHS items do not depict genuine harms that may occur as a result of gambling, causing the scale to overestimate harm. Specifically, we aimed to test convergence between the SGHS and its constituent items with: (1) wellbeing, and (2) psychological distress.

Methods

To test criterion validity of both the scale and the items, retrospective analyses of survey data from 2,704 Australian adults (36% non-gamblers; 64% gamblers) were conducted. Subjective wellbeing and psychological distress scores, captured using the Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI) and the Kessler-6 Psychological Distress Scale (K6), respectively, were used as external (non-gambling) benchmarks. A total of 428 (16%) respondents scored at least 1 on the SGHS.

Results

Monotonic decreases and increases, corresponding to poorer personal wellbeing and higher psychological distress, were found with each additional SGHS score increase. Gamblers endorsing a single SGHS item reported lower wellbeing and higher psychological distress than both non-gamblers and gamblers who scored zero on the SGHS.

Discussion and conclusion

These results show that the SGHS is a valid measure of GRH and contradict suggestions that low scores on the SGHS do not indicate true harm. The SGHS represents a valid and innovative short screening tool to measure GRH in population prevalence studies.

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