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Wohl, Gainsbury - Pop-up limit reminders for EGMs JOGS - preprint

Facilitating Responsible Gambling:
The Relative Effectiveness of Education-Based Animation and Monetary Limit
Setting Pop-up Messages among Electronic Gaming Machine Players
Wohl, M., Gainsbury, S., Stewart, M., & Sztainert, T. (in press). Facilitating Responsible
Gambling: The Relative Effectiveness of Education-Based Animation and Monetary Limit
Setting Pop-up Messages among Electronic Gaming Machine Players. Journal of Gambling
Studies. Online first. DOI 10.1007/s10899-012-9340-y
Although most gamblers set a monetary limit on their play, many exceed this limit an
antecedent of problematic gambling. Responsible gambling tools may assist players to
gamble within their means. Historically, however, the impact of such tools has been
assessed in isolation. In the current research, two responsible gambling tools that target
adherence to a monetary limit were assessed among 72 electronic gaming machine
(EGM) players. Participants watched an educational animation explaining how EGMs
work (or a neutral video) and then played an EGM in a virtual reality environment. All
participants were asked to set a monetary limit on their play, but only half were reminded
when that limit was reached. Results showed that both the animation and pop-up limit
reminder helped gamblers stay within their preset monetary limit; however, an interaction
qualified these main effects. Among participants who did not experience the pop-up
reminder, those who watched the animation stayed within their preset monetary limits
more than those who did not watch the animation. For those who were reminded of their
limit, however, there was no difference in limit adherence between those who watched
the animation and those who did not watch the animation. From a responsible gambling
perspective, the current study suggests that there is no additive effect of exposure to both
responsible gambling tools. Therefore, for minimal disruption in play, a pop-up message
reminding gamblers of their preset monetary limit might be preferred over the lengthier
educational animation.
Keywords: Limit setting; Limit adherence; Erroneous cognitions; Pop-up message;
Education; Animation; Responsible gambling
Facilitating Responsible Gambling:
The Relative Effectiveness of Education-Based Animation and Monetary Limit
Setting Pop-up Messages among Electronic Gaming Machine Players
Liberalization of gambling policies and cross-jurisdictional competition has led to
significant global increases in gambling in both land-based and Internet forms. Electronic
gaming machines (EGMs) are widely available in casinos and local venues in many parts
of Canada, Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and an increasing
number of Asian and South American countries. The expansion of gambling is generally
justified by arguments of economic benefits, providing a regulated environment, and
using taxes and profits to make positive community contributions (Economopoulos,
2007; Smith et al., 2011). However, it has been argued that gambling-related harms may
outweigh its benefits (Orford, Griffiths, Wardle, Sproston, & Erens, 2009; Smith et al.,
2011; Toce-Gerstein & Gerstein, 2007; Volberg, 2001). As a result, we, like others
(Blaszczynski, Ladouceur, & Shaffer, 2004; Gainsbury, 2011), suggest there is a need to
implement empirically tested tools that assist gamblers to engage in play responsibly.
Responsible gambling strategies aim to encourage players to gamble within their
means,1 whilst having minimal disruption for recreational players (Blaszczynski et al.,
2004). A key strategy for promoting responsible gambling is setting a monetary limit on
play (i.e., how much money can be lost in a given session; Brown & Newby-Clark, 2005;
Gollwitzer, Fujita, & Oettingen, 2004). This is because many gamblers have a problem
limiting the money they spend on gambling. The need to promote monetary limit
adherence is especially important as failure to do so increases alongside symptoms of
pathological gambling (Nower & Blaszczynski, 2010; Schellinck & Schrans, 2002;
Wohl, Christie, Matheson, & Anisman, 2010), which is in turn associated with a wide
range of problems including psychological distress and co-morbid disorders, poor health,
employment difficulties, family breakdown, crime, and suicide (see Neal, Delfabbro, &
ONeil, 2005). In Australia alone, problematic gambling is estimated to yield social costs
of AUD$4.7 billion annually (Productivity Commission, 2010).
Recognizing the need to promote limit setting and adherence, Wohl and
colleagues (2010) created a cognitively simply animation that educated gamblers about
how EGMs function and the benefits of setting a monetary limit on play. They showed
that this animation not only facilitated limit setting, but limit adherence as well. Other
research has shown responsible gambling benefits of pop-up messages on EGMs that
inform the gamblers, among other things, about the probability of wins (see Monaghan,
2008; Monaghan & Blaszczynski, 2007; Monaghan & Blaszczynski, 2010a) or directly
asks the gambler to set and record a monetary limit prior to play (Stewart & Wohl, in
press). The efficacy of these responsible gambling tools are typically designed and
assessed in isolation. In gambling venues, however, gamblers are typically exposed to an
array of such responsible gambling messages simultaneously. The possible interactive
effect of such exposure is not yet known.
The current research aims to extend the extant literature on responsible gambling
tools by assessing the consequence of being exposed to more than one responsible
gambling tool within a given gambling session. Specifically, the current research
assessed whether watching an educational animation that explains how EGMs work and
subsequently setting a monetary limit prior to play via a pop-up message increases
adherence to limits more than being exposed to either responsible gambling tool alone.
Promoting Responsible Gambling
Increasingly, governments and the gambling industry are accepting responsibility
for the implementation of public health oriented harm-reduction measures designed to
minimize excessive gambling and its negative consequences across all strata of the
general population (see Wohl, Sztainert & Young, in press). These harm-reduction
strategies aim to decrease the risks associated with gambling and facilitate responsible
gambling, without overtly disturbing those who gamble in a non-problematic manner
(Productivity Commission, 2010). The ultimate decision to gamble and do so responsibly
remains with the gambler. However, the gambler must be fully informed (i.e., educated)
about how the games they play work, the probability of winning, and how to gamble
responsibly. Subsequently, efforts on the part of government and the industry are required
to encourage and assist gamblers, for example, to limit their monetary expenditure to
within their discretionary disposable levels (Wohl et al., in press).
Although all forms of gambling can be associated with harm, EGMs have been
identified as particularly problematic (Dowling, Smith, & Thomas, 2005). EGMs are
disproportionately represented as the primary form of gambling reported by problem
gamblers seeking treatment (Productivity Commission, 2010). Among other reasons, this
is due to the structural characteristics of EGMs. In particular, wins are positively
reinforcing via classical and operant conditioning, which facilitates the development of
problem gambling. In addition, the intermittent random ratio of reinforcement schedule
that is inherent to EGMs is resistant to extinction, thus maintaining problematic play.
Indeed, as a consequence of the reinforcement schedule, problem gamblers often
experience cravings in anticipation of gambling as well as cravings to continue play once
engaged (Young & Wohl, 2009). The net effect is that EGMs encourage play and hinder
gamblers ability to make informed decisions about limit setting as well as limit adherence
(see Diskin & Hodgins, 1999, 2001; O’Connor & Dickerson, 2003; Stewart & Wohl, in
press). With the aim of promoting informed decision making about responsible play,
Wohl and colleagues (2010) created an animation that educated gamblers about the
prudence of setting expenditure limits when playing, and strategies to avoid exceeding
those limits. Central to this animation was also the dispelling of EGM myths (e.g., the
Jackpot becomes a more likely outcome the longer a person plays a particular EGM).
Dispelling EGM myths is important from a responsible gambling perspective because,
erroneous cognitions and the misunderstanding of concepts linked to randomness and
probabilities represent key components contributing to the initiation and maintenance of
problem gambling in general, and EGMs in particular (Blaszczynski & Nower, 2002;
McCusker & Gettings, 1997; Walker, 1992; Wohl, Young, & Hart, 2005). Wohl and
colleagues (2010) found that participants who watched the educational animation
compared to a neutral video demonstrated a reduction in erroneous cognitions and
perceived habits for limiting problematic play as effective. Importantly, following their
next gambling session, participants reported staying within preset monetary limits more if
they watched the educational animation than the neutral video. These results are
encouraging but suggest that greater attention be devoted to setting expenditure limits
during the animation.
Other researchers have examined the efficacy of signs and posters on, or in close
proximity to, EGMs to educate gamblers on the importance of setting monetary limits
when they gamble (e.g., Hing, 2004; Manitoba Gaming Control Commission, 2009).
While awareness of such signage is relatively high, many gamblers report failing to read
the content of the signs and posters, especially problem gamblers who deny they have a
gambling problem (Hing, 2004; Hing & Mattinson, 2005). Moreover, simple signs
providing gamblers with accurate information to correct erroneous cognitions and warn
about the risks of gambling have been showed to be generally ineffective in promoting
responsible gambling (Monaghan & Blaszczynski, 2010b).
To be effective in increasing message comprehension and subsequent behavioral
impact, signs need to attract attention. To this end, Monaghan and Blaszczynski (see
Monaghan & Blaszczynski, 2007; Monaghan, 2008; Monaghan & Blaszczynski, 2010a)
have assessed the utility of intermittent messages (i.e., ‘pop-up messages’) that appear on
EGM screens during play. They showed that such pop-up messages are noticed and
recalled to a greater extent than static signs and displays. Furthermore, research with
regular gamblers in gambling venues found that pop-up messages have a greater impact
on thoughts and behavior resulting in greater awareness of session length, more breaks in
play and shorter sessions compared to standard signs (Monaghan & Blaszczynski,
2010a). These findings, however, are limited because no money was wagered as
gamblers played on simulated gaming machines.
Research also indicates that gamblers typically do not believe that the information
provided on responsible gambling signage applies to them, think that they have personal
strategies to beat the odds (such as luck; Wohl & Enzle, 2002, 2003), or do not believe or
trust the information (Wohl et al., in press). As such, Stewart and Wohl (in press), sought
to extend the work of Monaghan and Blaszczynski by assessing the utility of pop-up
messages that explicitly ask gamblers to set a monetary limit prior to play and then
remind gamblers when their limit has been reached. They found that failure to adhere to
their preset monetary limit was positively associated with symptoms of gambling
pathology. However, participants who received a pop-up reminder were significantly
more likely to adhere to monetary limits than participants who did not. Dissociation
mediated the relationship between gambling symptomatology and adherence to monetary
limits, but only among those who did not receive a pop-up reminder. To the point, the
pop-up reminder broke the dissociation that hindered limit adherence. Thus, akin to the
educational animation, a pop-up message that first ask gamblers to set a monetary limit
and then reminds them when that limit has been reached is a particularly effective
responsible gambling tool.
Assessing the Responsible Gambling Tools and their Relative Utility
Several countries, including Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Australia, have
introduced or are in the initial stages of introducing player card systems that enable
gamblers to preset limits on their monetary expenditure in an effort to reduce impulsivity
and encourage gambling within affordable means. Unfortunately, there is a lack of
empirical evidence to guide the design of these systems. Although there is initial
indication that educational animations and pop-up messages are independently effective
means of facilitating limit setting and adherence, responsible gambling tools are rarely
introduced into player card systems in isolation. Indeed, players are exposed to multiple
responsible gambling features during play. For example, the MyPlay program used by the
Nova Scotia Gaming Cooperation (NSGC) uses an array of responsible gambling tools.
This system has been installed on all of NSGC’s video lottery terminals (VLTs) and aims
at offering players tools, such as limits on money and time, as well as self-exclusion
options and play history in order to promote responsible gambling.
Because efforts are increasing internationally to implement harm minimization
strategies to reduce the risks associated with gambling, empirical assessment of possible
additive or interactive effects of responsible gambling tools is required. Specifically,
what is currently unclear is whether some responsible gambling tools are more effective
than others or if use of more than one responsible gambling tool at a time has an additive
effect on responsible gambling.
To this end, the current study aimed to empirically test the utility of two
responsible gambling tools simultaneously an educational animation and pop-up
messages. It was hypothesized that participants who watched the educational animation
would self-report significantly less erroneous cognition than those who watched the
neutral video. This is because the animation directly targets erroneous cognitions. Given
that the pop-up message does not target erroneous cognitions, we predicted that there
would be no main effect of this variable or interaction with the animation. Lastly, akin to
Wohl and colleagues (2010) initial assessment, participants should rate the animation as
entertaining, of good quality, and educational.
It was also predicted that participants who were exposed to the monetary limit
pop-up reminder would be better able to detect when they reached their limit than those
who were not exposed to this reminder. Simply, this is because pop-up messages create a
break in play and reminds the gambler when their preset monetary limit has been
Given that research has yet to examine the potential interactive effect of
exposure to an educational animation and pop-up messages on responsible play (i.e., limit
adherence), no specific predictions were made. Instead, we point to some possible
outcomes. First, watching the educational animation about how EGMs work and then
being exposed to a monetary limit setting pop-up message might yield greater adherence
to limits than if exposed to any one of these tools on its own. Specifically, gamblers
might be more apt to set and adhere to limits if they are exposed to multiple responsible
gambling tools. It is also possible that one of the two tools is simply more effective at
producing limit adherence than another. For example, reminding gamblers when their
limit has been reached may improve limit adherence over and above any benefits drawn
from watching an educational animation. That said, given the substantive role of
erroneous cognitions in the development of gambling problems (Toneatto, 1999; Wohl et
al., 2005), educational materials designed to identify and correct common erroneous
cognitions may be especially useful in promoting responsible gambling. These
possibilities were directly assessed in the current study.
Participants consisted of 72 young adults (70.8% female) enrolled in
undergraduate courses at a large Canadian university. Participants’ ages ranged from 18
to 28 years (M = 19.69, SD = 1.82). As the primary purpose of the study was to assess
the preventive potential of the animation and pop-up reminders, only recreational
gamblers were recruited for the current study. Participants’ symptoms of gambling
problems were known prior to the study because the 10-item gambling checklist from the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (American Psychiatric
Association, 2000) was distributed to the student population at the onset of the academic
year. This provided a measure of symptoms of gambling pathology over the past 12
months. All the people contacted agreed to participate in the present study. Upon entering
the laboratory, the lack of symptoms of pathology was confirmed using the Problem
Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) from the Canadian Problem Gambling Index (CPGI;
Ferris & Wynne, 2001). Specifically, using the PGSI, all participants were categorized as
non-problem or low-risk gamblers (M = .68; SD = 1.03).
Participants represented mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds, including
Caucasian (84.7%), East Asian (4.2%), Hispanic and South American (2.8%), South
Asian (1.4%), African Canadian (1.4%), and Native Canadian (1.4%). An additional
4.2% indicated other or multi-ethnic.
Participants arrived at the laboratory and were informed that the study involved
assessing gambling behavior and that they would gamble on EGMs in a virtual reality
(VR) casino. Written, informed consent was received before participants moved to a
computer terminal and put on a head-mounted display (Z800 3D Visor, eMagin
Corporation, Fishkill, New York) that enabled viewing of the VR environment.
Participants acclimatized to the VR environment by navigating around a city
environment, finding and entering the casino, and walking around the casino for five
Participants were given a total of 80 credits (at 25 cents each for a total of $20) to
gamble with on the EGMs in the VR casino and informed that they had the chance to win
more credits. Participants were instructed that they could trade any credits remaining at
the end of the session for money, which they would be allowed to keep.
Prior to play, all participants watched a short 9-minute video; in the animation
condition, participants watched a custom-designed educational animation video. This
video was designed to examine common misconceptions about how EGMs function and
then correct these misconceptions in a cognitively simple manner. For example, the
animation demonstrated that all outcomes were random and not linked to previous events
(for a detailed description of this animation see Wohl et al., 2010). Participants in the
neutral condition watched a 9-minute video produced by Ontario Lottery and Gaming
Corporation detailing their annual revenue from lotteries, lottery games offered, and the
location of various casinos in Ontario. No mention was made about how EGMs function.
After watching one of the two videos, participants entered the VR casino and
approached any vacant EGM. After money was inserted, a pop-up message appeared on
the screen requiring participants to set a limit on the number of credits (out of their 80)
they wished to spend on the EGM. After setting a limit participants were allowed to play
as long as they wished.
The outcome of all EGM spins were pre-programmed so all participants
experienced the same sequence of wins and losses. In the pop-up reminder condition,
participants were informed via a pop-up message when their limit had been reached and
asked them whether they wished to continue gambling (‘yes’ or ‘no). Regardless of their
response, a second pop-up message instructed participants to inform the experimenter of
this decision before proceeding. Participants were then given a battery of questionnaires
to complete, which assessed demographics, gambling history, gambling severity and
erroneous cognitions. Upon completing the questionnaires, participants who indicated
that they wished to continue gambling were permitted to do so (the EGM was
programmed such that participants would eventually lose all their 80 credits). In the no
pop-up reminder condition, participants played until they wished to stop or they ran out
of credits. Thereafter, they completed the same questionnaire battery.
All participants were fully debriefed at the end of the experimental session. They
were compensated $30 for their time, regardless of how much money they had remaining
at the end of the gambling session.
Demographics and gambling history. This questionnaire gathered background
information from the participants (e.g., age, gender, and ethnicity). Additionally, all
participants were asked about their gambling history including recent gambling
experiences, average expenditures, and their game of choice.
Erroneous cognitions. The 25-item Informational Biases Scale (IBS; Jefferson &
Nicki, 2003) is an established measure that assesses erroneous cognitions in relation to
the nature of chance events, randomness, and independence of game outcomes (e.g., “I
would rather use a EGM that I am familiar with than one that I have never used before”).
Items are rated on a 7-point Likert scale, with 1 representing ‘Don’t agree at all’ and 7
representing ‘Strongly agree’. Higher scores represent greater misperceptions of
randomness, odds, and sampling with replacement. This scale demonstrated high internal
reliability (α = .92) in the current study.
Limit detection. Participants were asked the extent to which they were able to
detect that they had reached their limit. This item was, “I noticed when I hit my limit.”
This item was anchored at 1 (strongly disagree) and 7 (strongly agree).
Adherence to preset limit. Whether or not participants adhered to their preset
monetary limit was tracked (0 = stayed within preset limit; 1 = exceeded preset limit).
Preliminary Analyses
All participants reported prior gambling experience with EGMs. The vast
majority (87.1%) of participants reported setting monetary limits prior to gambling.
To assess whether age influenced how people responded to the manipulations, we
regressed the animation condition variable (0=neutral video; 1=animation video), the
pop-up condition variable (0=no pop-up reminder; 1=pop-up reminder), age, all two-way
interaction terms, as well as the three-way interaction term on erroneous cognitions and
limit detection. There were no significant main effects of age, ps > .25, and no significant
interactions (two- or three-way) with age, ps > .09. Logistic regression with the same
predictor variables on adherence to preset limits indicated that there were no significant
main effect of age, p > .28, and no significant interactions (two- or three-way) with age,
ps > .10. Therefore, we collapsed across age for all subsequent analyses.
We then conducted a series of three-way between-groups Analysis of Variances
(ANOVAs; Animation Condition x Pop-up Condition x Symptomatology) that showed
neither main effects of problem gambling symptomatology (using the PGSI), ps > .26,
nor significant interactions (two- or three-way), ps > .11, on erroneous cognitions and
limit detection. Logistic regression with the same predictor variables on adherence to
preset limits indicated neither a main effect of problem gambling symptomatology, ps >
.09, nor significant interactions (two- or three-way), ps > .13. Therefore, we collapsed
across problem gambling symptomatology for all subsequent analyses.
Gender differences regarding the pathway toward gambling pathology may vary
as a function of gender-based differences in the manner to which they appraise gambling
situations (see Matheson, Wohl, & Anisman, 2009; Volberg, 2002). A series of three-way
between-groups ANOVAs (Animation Condition x Pop-up Condition x Gender) were
conducted on erroneous cognitions and limit detection. Neither the main effects of
gender, ps > .08, nor the interactions involving gender, ps > .10, were significant for any
of the dependent variables. Logistic regression with the same predictor variables on
adherence to preset limits indicated neither a main effect of gender, ps > .95, nor
significant interactions (two- or three-way), ps > .08. Therefore, we collapsed across
gender for all subsequent analyses.
Lastly, a 2 (animation manipulation) x 2 (pop-up manipulation) ANOVA was
conducted on the monetary limit participants’ set prior to play. There were neither
significant main effects of the animation manipulation, F(1,69) = .37, p=.55, ηp²=.005 or
the pop-up manipulation, F(1,69) = 3.10, p=.08, ηp²=.04, nor a significant interaction,
F(1,69) = 1.85, p = .18, ηp²=.03. Thus, participants set statistically equivalent limits
across conditions.
Measured Variables
Means and standard deviations for all measured variables by condition are
reported in Table 1 as well as the number of participants per condition.
Erroneous cognitions. A 2 (animation manipulation) x 2 (pop-up manipulation)
ANOVA was applied to the erroneous cognitions variable. There was a main effect of the
animation manipulation, F(1,68) = 12.52, p=.001, ηp²=.16. As predicted, participants who
watched the animation had significantly fewer erroneous cognitions (M = 2.23, SD = .92)
than participants who watched the neutral video (M = 3.10, SD = 1.12). As expected,
there was neither a main effect of the pop-up manipulation, F(1,68) = .01, p = .98, ηp² <
.001, nor a significant interaction, F(1,68) = .744, p = .35, ηp² = .005 on erroneous
Limit detection. A 2 (animation manipulation) x 2 (pop-up manipulation)
ANOVA was applied to the limit detection variable. Although there was not a significant
main effect of the animation manipulation, F(1,66) = 1.15, p=.29, ηp² =.02, there was a
significant main effect of the pop-up manipulation, F(1,66) = 5.97, p = .02, ηp² = .08. As
predicted, participants who were exposed to a pop-up reminder were better able to detect
when they reached their limit (M = 5.81, SD = 1.62) than participants who were not
exposed to a reminder (M = 4.71, SD = 2.04). No significant interaction was observed,
F(1,66) = .78, p = .38, ηp² = .01.
Adherence to Monetary Limits Set Prior to Electronic Gaming Machine Play
Chi-square analysis was used to determine differences in categorical data. A
three-way frequency analysis was conducted to examine the degree of association
between (1) the animation manipulation, (2) the pop-up manipulation, and (3) adherence
to pre-set limits. Backward stepwise elimination was used to develop hierarchical log-
linear models and determine the model of best fit. Log-linear analysis is a generalization
of the χ2 analysis which allows the researcher to examine the impact of more than one
categorical variable together as well as the interactions of each variable in modeling the
data (see Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001).
Analysis revealed that both the animation and monetary limit pop-up reminder
helped facilitate adherence to preset limits, χ2 (1) = 6.83, p = .009 and χ2 (1) = 6.83, p =
.009, respectively. Specifically, participants who watched the animation adhered to their
preset limit more (97%) than those who watched the neutral video (77%). Likewise,
participants who were provided a reminder of their preset monetary limit adhered to that
limit more (97%) than those who were not reminded (77%).
However, as depicted in Figure 1, the two main effects were qualified by an
interaction between the two manipulated variables on limit adherence.2 Among
participants who did not experience the pop-up reminder, those who watched the
animation stayed within their pre-set limits (94.1%) more than those who did not watch
the animation (61.1%) , χ2(1) = 5.40, p = .02. Odds ratios indicated that among those who
did not receive the pop-up, those who watched the neutral video were 10 times more
likely to exceed their limit compared to those who watched the animation video. Among
participants who were reminded of their limit via pop-up message, however, there was no
difference in limit adherence between those who watched the animation (95%) and those
who did not watch the animation (94.1%) , χ2(1) = .01, p = .91.
Impressions of the Animation
Wohl and colleagues’ (2010) initial assessment of the animation used a
community sample of gamblers who reported a positive impression of the animation. In
the current study, a university student sample was employed. Thus, we thought it prudent
to examine if, akin to the community sample, young adults had a positive impression of
the animation. To this end, we asked participants in the animation condition whether they
found the animation entertaining (M=5.10, SD=1.22), of good quality (M=5.15,
SD=1.10), and educational (M=5.23, SD=1.61) on a scale anchored at 1 (strongly
disagree) and 7 (strongly agree). The means for all responses were significantly above
the midpoint of the scale, ps < .001. Because participants who viewed the animation
ranged in age from 18-28, we also assessed whether age predicted their impression of the
animation. Regression analyses showed that age did not predict impression on any of the
measured variables, p > .27 Discussion
Increasingly, gambling jurisdictions are examining avenues to assist their patrons
to gamble responsibly. As a result, there has been a rapid increase in the production of
various tools to facilitate responsible gambling. Unfortunately, few responsible gambling
tools have been empirically tested resulting in a significant gap in the research available
to guide public policy. Two tools that have received some empirical attention are
educational animations that explain how EGMs function and pop-up messages that help
guide the gambler to play responsibly (Monaghan, 2008; Monaghan & Blaszczynski,
2007; Monaghan & Blaszczynski, 2010a; Stewart & Wohl, in press; Wohl et al., 2010).
However, the extant empirical research has focused on assessing the utility of one type of
responsible gambling tool at a time. In all responsible gambling systems that have been
implemented, however, gamblers are exposed to an array of tools. In the current study,
we assessed the effect of exposure to both an educational animation and a pop-up
message in the same gambling session.
Consistent with predictions, participants who viewed the educational animation
reported significantly less gambling-related erroneous cognition than those who viewed
the neutral video. This finding confirms Wohl and colleagues’ (2010) initial examination
of the efficacy of this responsible gambling tool, which found that the educational
animation was associated with a decrease in erroneous cognitions. Importantly, the
current research also extends previous findings by assessing adherence to preset
monetary limits in vivo the previous investigation with the animation asked participants
to retrospectively report on limit adherence. We showed that the pro-responsible
gambling effect of the educational animation on limit adherence obtained by Wohl et al.
(2010) was not simply due to motivated recall among those viewed the animation.
Indeed, viewing the animation resulted in greater adherence to preset monetary limits
during the monitored laboratory gambling session.
We also showed that participants who were exposed to a monetary limit pop-up
reminder during EGM play were more aware of when they had reached their limit than
participants who were not exposed to a reminder. This result provides support for the
effectiveness of monetary limit pop-up messages coupled with reminders as a strategy
that can be used to encourage responsible gambling (see Stewart & Wohl, in press).
When a gambler intensely focuses on and becomes absorbed in play they tend to lose
track of time and space, thus undermining the limits set prior to initiating play (see Diskin
& Hodgins, 1999, 2001; Jacobs, 1988; Wynne, 1994). The consequence is that gamblers
are often not aware that they have exceeded their preset monetary limit (Stewart & Wohl,
in press). The pop-up message reminds the gambler that their limit has been reached thus
enhancing the prospect of limit adherence and, by extension, responsible gambling.
Of central concern for the current research, however, was the possible additive or
interactive effect of exposure to more than one responsible gambling tool within a given
session. Indeed, in the current study, an interaction was observed that qualified the two
main effects. Among participants who did not experience the pop-up reminder, those who
watched the animation stayed within their preset limits more than those who did not
watch the animation. For those who were reminded of their monetary limit, however,
there was no difference in limit adherence between those who watched the animation and
those who watched the neutral video. Thus, there was no additive effect of exposure to
both responsible gambling tools. Both the educational animation and monetary limit pop-
up messages were found to aid in the adherence to preset monetary limits.
It is possible that a ceiling effect is reached with a pop-up reminder of the
gambler’s preset limit. Indeed, the vast majority of participants in both the educational
animation and neutral video condition who received a monetary limit pop-up reminder
adhered to their monetary limit. These results suggest it would behove policy makers to
focus their responsible gambling attention (though not undivided) on the relatively
unobtrusive pop-up message. It is an effective means of increasing preset limit adherence,
which could have significant downstream effects on gambling-related harm reduction.
Some limitations of the current research should be noted. First, the sample
consisted of university-recruited young adult gamblers and as such, results of the current
research may not generalize to other populations. Gainsbury and Blaszczynski
(Gainsbury & Blaszczynski, 2011; Gainsbury, Russell, & Blasazczynski, in press) have
discussed the limitations of conducting research with this population and concluded that
as a result of participant characteristics, results may inflate the potential impact of
responsible gambling tools. However, as increased rates of at-risk and problem gambling
have been documented among university students and young adults (Barnes, Welte,
Hoffman, & Tidwell, 2010; Welte, Barnes, Tidwell & Hoffman, 2011) it was considered
useful to examine the efficacy of the responsible gambling tools in this population.
However, it is important that this research be replicated with a sample of gamblers more
representative of the general population.
It should also be noted that the current study was conducted in a laboratory setting
rather than an actual gambling venue. Further, participants were not wagering their own
money. Although attempts were made to increase the salience of the potential winnings,
it is possible that they were not playing as they would with their own money.
Consequently, results may be limited in the extent to which they can be generalized to a
session of EGM gambling in an actual gambling environment. However, it has been
found that if appropriate factors are introduced, such as the chance to win or lose money,
the gambling experience in a VR environment is similar to that in an actual casino (Leary
& Dickerson, 1985). With respect to the current study, results regarding the educational
animation closely mimic those of Wohl and colleagues (2010) who assessed gamblers in
a casino and who were betting with their own funds. Further, by conducting the current
research in a laboratory setting, we were able to control for extraneous variables (e.g.,
win and losses) and randomly assign participants to experimental conditions. This
allowed for greater causal inferences to be drawn and increased internal validity. Finally,
future research should examine the impact of mandatory limit setting on EGM play. It is
possible that simply being required to consider limits prior to play and make a
commitment to this limit may increase adherence to such limits in comparison to less
structured personal limit setting.
Despite the methodological limitations noted, the current research has important
implications for the prevention of problematic EGM play. Specifically, by highlighting
the fact that EGM wins are random, unpredictable and beyond personal control, the
educational animation appears to be effective in decreasing erroneous cognitions held by
non-problem EGM gamblers. Moreover, it appears that by stressing the importance of
setting and adhering to preset monetary limits, the educational animation encourages
gamblers to adhere to monetary limits set prior to play. Given that the educational
animation was associated with a decrease in erroneous cognitions and exceeding
monetary limits, this responsible gambling tool may be particularly effective in reducing
the risk of problem gambling among EGM players. Importantly from an uptake
perspective, people in both the current study and Wohl and colleagues (2010) found the
educational animation to be enjoyable, of good quality, and (perhaps most importunately)
educational. Similar impressions should thus be expected if the gambling industry were
to include this video in their suit of responsible gambling tools.
Monetary limit pop-up reminders also appeared to be highly effective at
promoting responsible play. By briefly suspending play to remind gamblers when they
reach their preset limit, pop-up reminders informed players of when their preset limit was
reached. In doing so, pop-up messages encourage EGM players to gamble within their
limits and reduce the risk of problematic EGM play.
The effect of the brief pop-up reminder of limits reached appeared to be equally
effective to the educational animation. This suggests that this brief intervention could be
highly effective and minimally intrusive for gamblers. Given that the aim of responsible
gambling strategies is to minimize disruption among recreational gamblers, the pop-up
message required less time commitment than viewing the educational animation and thus
might be a preferred strategy if time is an issue. With that said, it is possible that pop-up
messages may lose their effectiveness over time. Specifically, gamblers may become
desensitized to the pop-up with repeated exposer (see Daryanani, 2011). Future research
should test this possibility with a longitudinal study.
The results of the current research have immediate applied significance for policy
makers. Specifically, pop-up messages reminding players they have reached their preset
limits should be implemented for land-based and online EGMs to encourage responsible
gambling and reduce the potential risks associated with EGM gambling. However, this
responsible gambling tool is only effective to the extent that gamblers have the ability to
set monetary limits prior to play. Several jurisdictions (e.g., Australia and Canada) are
moving towards requiring limit setting to be a mandatory feature for land-based EGMs
and online gambling sites. Further evaluation of limit setting in gambling venues should
be conducted to validate various responsible gambling tools both in isolation as well as
part of a holistic strategy.
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1 It is recognized that gambling within means implies the total sum of money that any one
person can afford to lose is a subjective amount and likely dependent on that person’s
personal wealth. Although some people can afford to lose substantial sums of money they
may still develop problem gambling symptomatology (e.g., lying about gambling and
neglecting important activities and relationships) theyare simply able to avoid or delay
some negative problem gambling-related outcomes due to their financial circumstances.
2 Although no three-way interaction was detected with the log-linear analysis, possible
two-way interactions were probed to assess the viability of this possibility.
Table 1
Means and Standard Deviations for Measured Variables by Condition
Educational Animation Neutral Video
Pop-up No Pop-up Pop-up No Pop-up
Reminder Reminder Reminder Reminder
(n= 20) (n=17) (n=17) (n=18)
Erroneous Cognitions
Mean (SD) 2.17 (.87) a 2.31 (1.01) a 3.17 (1.10) b 3.04 (1.16) b
Limit Detection
Mean (SD) 6.21 (1.51) a 4.75 (1.84) b 5.35 (1.66) ab 4.67 (2.25) b
Note. Comparisons in a given row with different subscripts are significantly different at p < .05. Numbers in parentheses are standard
Figure 1. Adherence to pre-set monetary limit (in percentage) by animation and pop-up
reminder conditions.
No Pop-Up Reminder Pop-Up Reminder
Percent adherence to pre-set monetary limit
Control Video
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Full-text available
Problem (n = 20) and occasional (n = 22) video lottery terminal (VLT) gamblers were compared on speed of reaction to irrelevant light stimuli on a nongambling baseline measure and while playing on a VLT, on feelings of dissociation when gambling (Jacobs, 1988), and on general dissociative experiences (Dissociative Experiences Scale [DES]; Bernstein & Putnam, 1986). The groups did not differ on DES scores. Problem gamblers reported more dissociative-like experiences when gambling than occasional gamblers. For the problem gamblers only the speed of response to irrelevant light stimuli when playing on the VLT was dependent on the order of task presentation. These findings suggest problem VLT gamblers focus intensely on VLT play but are capable of changing their focus if the task requires it.
Full-text available
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This chapter examines each of the major stakeholders involved in gambling. These stakeholders include governments, industry, and the non-profit/health care sector. The chapter reviews some of the programs that have been delivered to prevent and treat problem gamblers. The authors then turn to one particular program that shows great promise, not only in educating gamblers about responsible play, but also in assisting those people who may be involved in problematic gambling. The authors advance a model of care that places responsible gambling information centers at the core. The model brings casinos, addiction professionals, regulators together to educate (CARE) both gamblers and industry personnel in an effort to prevent problem gambling, as well as assisting gamblers in need to seek professional help through Responsible Gambling Information Centers (RGIC). The chapter finally outlines a roadmap to facilitate collaboration among the three sectors in an effort to better the gambling environment for players.
An analysis of the gambling process, a review of gambling research, and a survey of philosophical, phenomenological, and theoretical interpretations of gambling suggest that the motives for gambling are highly complex. However, many similarities were found between anecdotal accounts of gamblers' experiences and the philosophical, phenomenological, and theoretical interpretations of the gambling process. Many of the research studies corroborated both the anecdotal accounts and the interpretations. The most fruitful and veridical findings seem to come from studies that recognized gambling as adult play. The significance of studying gambling as play readily revealed itself, and it is hoped that future research expands on the existential and transpersonal nature of this aspect of gambling. We have come a long way in increasing our knowledge of gambling since Bergler's original interpretation of gambling as psychic masochism. Gambling may be psychic masochism for some, but it is without doubt psychic play pleasure for the vast majority of persons who gamble.
The present study assessed gambling appraisals and specific coping styles among 400 young male (n = 230) and female (n = 170) gamblers. Of particular interest was to determine whether gender variations in stress-related responses are associated with the degree of gambling pathology, depressive symptoms, and attitude to seeking treatment. Results showed that greater appraisals of threat, illusions of control, and negative outcome expectancies were associated with higher levels of gambling pathology, particularly among males. Further, among women, gambling propensity was associated with reduced social support seeking, whereas for men gambling pathology was primarily accounted for by increased use of wishful thinking. These coping strategies, combined with other internally oriented emotion-focused strategies, mediated the relation between gambling and depressive symptoms. Not surprisingly, more positive attitudes to treatment seeking were reported by those with a greater propensity to use problem-solving and support seeking coping efforts. The utility of assessing specific components that comprise a gambler’s stress-response is discussed.