Sports betting has increased markedly in recent years, in part due to legislative changes and the introduction of novel forms of sports betting (e.g., in-play betting). Some evidence suggests that in-play betting is more harmful than other types of sports betting (i.e., traditional and single-event). However, existing research on in-play sports betting has been limited in scope. To address this gap, the present study examined the extent to which demographic, psychological, and gambling-related constructs (e.g., harms) are endorsed by in-play sports bettors relative to single-event and traditional sports bettors.
Sports bettors (N = 920) aged 18+ from Ontario, Canada completed an online survey containing self-report measures of demographic, psychological, and gambling-related variables. Participants were classified as either in-play (n = 223), single-event (n = 533), or traditional bettors (n = 164) based on their sports betting engagement.
In-play sports bettors reported higher problem gambling severity, endorsed greater gambling-related harms across several domains, and reported greater mental health and substance use difficulties compared to single-event and traditional sports bettors. There were generally no differences between single-event and traditional sports bettors.
Results provide empirical support for the potential harms associated with in-play sports betting and inform our understanding of who may be at risk for increased harms associated with in-play betting.
Findings may be important for the development of public health and responsible gambling initiatives to reduce the potential harms of in-play betting, particularly as many jurisdictions globally move towards legalization of sports betting.
Problem gambling constitutes a public health concern associated with psychopathological comorbidity, substance use, and financial difficulties. Most individuals with gambling problems avoid counseling services due to perceived stigma and their preference for self-reliance. Treatment accessibility could be improved through web-based interventions.
We recruited 360 individuals with gambling problems and randomized them to a web-based intervention (n = 185) or an active control group consisting of a self-help manual for problem gambling (n = 175). The primary outcome was the number of days of gambling in the last 30 days. Secondary outcomes included money spent in the last 30 days, time gambling in the last 7 days, gambling-related problems, consumption of alcohol and cigarettes, and psychopathological comorbidity measured at posttreatment and 6-month follow-up.
The primary outcome decreased significantly for both groups, with no significant difference between the groups. There were significant group × time interactions according to the Gambling Symptom Assessment Scale (F = 8.83, p <0 .001), the Problem Gambling Severity Index (F = 3.54, p = 0.030), for cigarettes smoked in the last 7 days (F = 26.68, p < 0.001), the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (F = 19.41, p <0 .001), and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (F = 41.09, p <0 .001) favoring the intervention group. We experienced an overall high dropout rate (76%).
Win Back Control seems to be an effective low-threshold treatment option for individuals with gambling problems that might otherwise be unapproachable for outpatient treatment services. Nevertheless, the high dropout rate should be considered when interpreting the study results, as they may have introduced a degree of variability.
Problem gambling and tobacco use are highly comorbid among adults. However, there are few treatment frameworks that target both gambling and tobacco use simultaneously (i.e., an integrated approach), while also being accessible and evidence-based. The aim of this two-arm open label RCT was to examine the efficacy of an integrated online treatment for problem gambling and tobacco use.
A sample of 209 participants (Mage = 37.66, SD = 13.81; 62.2% female) from North America were randomized into one of two treatment conditions (integrated [n = 91] or gambling only [n = 118]) that lasted for eight weeks and consisted of seven online modules. Participants completed assessments at baseline, after treatment completion, and at 24-week follow-up.
While a priori planned generalized linear mixed models showed no condition differences on primary (gambling days, money spent, time spent) and secondary outcomes, both conditions did appear to significantly reduce problem gambling and smoking behaviours over time. Post hoc analyses showed that reductions in smoking and gambling craving were correlated with reductions in days spent gambling, as well as with gambling disorder symptoms. Relatively high (versus low) nicotine replacement therapy use was associated with greater reductions in gambling behaviours in the integrated treatment condition.
Discussion and conclusions
While our open label RCT does not support a clear benefit of integrated treatment, findings suggest that changes in smoking and gambling were correlated over time, regardless of treatment condition, suggesting that more research on mechanisms of smoking outcomes in the context of gambling treatment may be relevant.