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Authors: Steve Sharman, Jenny Dreyer, Luke Clark and Henrietta Bowden-Jones

Backgrounds and aims

Problem gambling occurs at higher levels in the homeless than the general population. Past work has not established the extent to which problem gambling is a cause or consequence of homelessness. This study sought to replicate recent observations of elevated rates of problem gambling in a British homeless sample, and extend that finding by characterizing (a) the temporal sequencing of the effect, (b) relationships with drug and alcohol misuse, and (c) awareness and access of treatment services for gambling by the homeless.

Methods

We recruited 72 participants from homeless centers in Westminster, London, and used the Problem Gambling Severity Index to assess gambling involvement, as well as DSM-IV criteria for substance and alcohol use disorders. A life-events scale was administered to establish the temporal ordering of problem gambling and homelessness.

Results

Problem gambling was evident in 23.6% of the sample. In participants who endorsed any gambling symptomatology, the majority were categorized as problem gamblers. Within those problem gamblers, 82.4% indicated that gambling preceded their homelessness. Participants displayed high rates of substance (31.9%) and alcohol dependence (23.6%); these were not correlated with PGSI scores. Awareness of treatment for gambling was significantly lower than for substance and alcohol use disorders, and actual access of gambling support was minimal.

Discussion and conclusions

Problem gambling is an under-recognized health issue in the homeless. Our observation that gambling typically precedes homelessness strengthens its role as a causal factor. Despite the elevated prevalence rates, awareness and utilization of gambling support opportunities were low compared with services for substance use disorders.

Open access

Abstract

Background and aims: The UK allows a number of gambling products to be legally used by people under the age of 18. The aim of this study was to explore associations between recalled legal usage of five youth gambling products and adult disordered gambling. Methods: A retrospective cross-sectional study of 1,057 adult UK gamblers, aged 18–40. Recalled legal use of five youth gambling products (category D fruit machines, coin push machines, crane grab machines, the National Lottery, and National Lottery scratchcards) was correlated with adult disordered gambling symptoms as measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). Results: Recalled rates of legal engagement with each product ranged from 50.9% for Category D fruit machines to 96.6% for coin push machines. For category D fruit machines, the National Lottery, and National Lottery scratchcards, merely having legally engaged with these products as a child was associated with adult disordered gambling. Furthermore, higher levels of recalled legal youth usage with each of the five products was also associated with adult disordered gambling. Discussion and conclusions: These results relate to recent government proposals to increase the National Lottery scratchcard legal age to 18, and add to a wider literature on youth gambling and subsequent gambling-related harm.

Open access