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Behavioral Studies

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A Typology of the Gambler. Joseph A. Scimecca. International Journal of Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 8(1), p56-71, Jan. 1971. This is one of the earlier attempts to systematically classify gamblers based on a range of behavioral and attitudinal characteristics, including the motivation for gambling, the degree of ego involvement, the amount of skill involved, the degree of superstition, and societal reaction. Based on these characteristics, Scimecca identifies seven types of gamblers: the professional gambler, the percentage gambler, the cheater, the compulsive gambler, the economic gambler, the thrill gambler, and the functional gambler. While others have tackled this subject since, Scimecca provides a thoughtful conceptual framework which is still relevant more than 25 years after publication.

Why Regular Gamblers Don't Quit: A Sociological Perspective. John Rosecrance. Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 29(3), p357-378, July 1986. A two-year field study was conducted through observation of off-track horse race gamblers, sports bettors, and poker players. The results of the data suggest that continued gambling, despite losses, can be explained by the binding social aspects of the activity. The rewards of the social connection were more important than the losses incurred. Changes in the gamblers lives such as divorce, separation or retirement led to increased gambling activity.

Attributions and the Origins of Problem Gambling. John Rosecrance. The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 27(4), p464-477, 1986. A one-year study of self-acknowledged horse-players who regularly frequent Harrah's Race Book in Lake Tahoe was conducted. The findings showed that a bad beat (devastating loss) usually led to problem gambling, not a big win as has been previously shown. It also concluded that problem gambling is reversible and considerable help in this regard can be attained from fellow gamblers.

Going on Tilt: Frequent Poker Players and Control. Basil R. Browne. Journal of Gambling Behavior, Vol.5(1), p3-21, Spring 1989. This paper is based on three years of participant observation in California's legal commercial card parlors and one year observation at an open meeting of Gamblers Anonymous (G.A.). The concept of tilt is advanced to describe the process of losing control in the gambling situation. Although some problem gamblers and most compulsive gamblers (members of G.A.) did not use this term, they nonetheless described the same process. Tilt is defined and broken down into its various components. Paths to, or ways of going on tilt and the means used to avoid tilt are spelled out. Hothschild's concept of "emotion work" is used to describe how successful professionals stay off tilt. The major contention of the paper is that all gamblers experience tilt, and their reactions to tilt and to tilt-inducing situations partly determine whether or not gambling becomes a major problem. The implications of tilt are also discussed.

Pathological Gambling. Richard J. Rosenthal. Psychiatric Annals 22:2, p72-78, Feb. 1992. Pathological gambling is very similar in definition and symptoms to substance dependence. This article discusses the evolution of the DSM-IV criteria for diagnosing pathological gamblers. Various studies of pathological gamblers in treatment reveal that approximately 50 percent have histories of alcohol or drug abuse. In males, the disorder typically begins in adolescence. Females typically start gambling later in life, are more apt to be depressed, and gamble as a means of escaping the depression. It is not unusual for male gamblers to have a history of 20 to 30 years when they seek treatment, compared with three years for females.

Prevalence of Pathological Gambling and Related Problems Among College Students in the Quebec Metropolitan Area. Robert Ladouceur, Dominique Dubé, and Annie Bujold. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 39, p298-293. June, 1994. A sample of 1,461 college students was given the South Oaks Gambling Screen as well as questions on substance abuse and other problematic behavior. The authors identified positive correlations between SOGS scores and tobacco use, alcohol abuse, illegal substance use, excessive eating, not eating at all, bulimic tendencies, criminal arrests, and suicide attempts. Unlike other studies, an inverse relationship was found between student gambling and parental gambling.

Comparing the Pathological and Recreational Gambler: An Exploratory Study. Gary Davis and Dennis Brissett. Minnesota Department of Human Services, Dec. 1995. This study explores the possible personality and life style differences between pathological gamblers and recreational gamblers. No differences were found between the pathological and recreational gamblers on demographic variables including gender, age, marital status and level of education. Although similar in the early stage of their gambling careers, pathological gamblers were very different from recreational gamblers in the latter stage of their gambling careers (when gambling was at its worst) with respect to the effects of gambling on their lives and their reasons for gambling. When their gambling was at its worst, pathological gamblers gambled to make money, to escape, to be in control of life, to feel alive and to relieve depression. Recreational gamblers reported gambling for fun, recreation and novelty. Personality tests showed the pathological gambler to be more unconventional and non-conforming.

The Impact of the Windsor Casino on Adult Gambling in the City of Windsor. Richard Govoni and G. Ron Frisch. The Problem Gambling Research Group of the Psychology Department at the University of Windsor, May 23, 1996. This report is Phase II of a multi-year project to assess the impact of the Windsor Casino on its community. Phase I (pre-casino) and Phase II (post-casino) used the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) as the basis for measuring recent and lifetime gambling behaviors. A comparison of survey responses of people before and one year after the casino opened showed no statistically significant differences in either Problem or Pathological gambling levels. The casino approval rate increased from 54.2 percent of the population to 65.1 percent one year after the opening, with the disapproval rate decreasing from 30.2 percent to 18.6 percent. The average per capita spending increased from $549 to $599 after the casino opened. Increases in yearly expenditure were not evenly distributed across the sample; the greatest increases were in the highest quartile of expenditure.

Cognitive Psychopathology of Problem Gambling. Tony Toneatto. Substance Use and Misuse 34(11), 1593-1604, 1999. After reviewing the literature on the cognitive distortions found in problem gamblers, Toneatto identifies nine types of cognitive distortions. These include the magnification of gambling skills, the minimization of other gambler's skills, superstitious beliefs, interpretive biases (explanations for repeated losses), "temporal telescoping" (expectations of an imminent win), selective memory, predictive skill (assigning meaning to omens, hunches, etc.), the illusion of control over luck, and illusory correlations (such as the belief that "I win more often at night").

A Profile of Canadian Adults Seeking Treatment for Gambling Problems and Comparisons With Adults Entering an Alcohol Treatment Program. Jamie MD Wiebe and Brian J. Cox. Can. J. Psychiatry 2001; 46:418-421. This study compared 1,376 adults seen in a Winnipeg problem gambling program with 11,661 clients of the same organization's alcohol program. Gambling clients tended to have higher socio-economic status, including significantly higher income and educational attainment, were more likely to be married, female, and older. Alcohol-related problems were found to be rare in the gambling sample, but tobacco use was extremely common. 69 percent of the gamblers reported using tobacco, compared to rates of about 30 percent found in surveys of the general Canadian population.

Pathological Gamblers, With and Without Substance Use Disorders, Discount Delayed Rewards at High Rates. Nancy M. Petry, Journal of Abnormal Psychology 2001, 110:3, 482-487. This study attempted to measure impulsivity in pathological gamblers by asking them to choose between smaller, immediate rewards and larger, delayed rewards. 60 pathological gamblers and 26 control group members were asked to choose between different combinations of immediate rewards of $1 to $999 and an award of $1000 delayed between six hours and 25 years. They found that the pathological gamblers valued immediate rewards significantly more than the control group, and that pathological gamblers with a history of substance abuse discount future rewards at extraordinarily high levels.

Binge Gambling: A Neglected Concept. Lia Nower & Alex Blaszczynski. International Gambling Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, 23-25. June, 2003. Using two case studies, the authors make a case for the existence of a neglected group of binge gamblers—those with occasional episodes of uncontrolled gambling interspersed with prolonged periods of abstinence with no gambling urges. While these individuals experience serious consequences from their gambling, they are often undetected through traditional gambling screening instruments. Nower and Blaszczynski argue that binge gamblers challenge “the historically accepted notion that gambling disorder is, by nature, progressive and that problem gamblers are either moving toward or away from more serious pathology.”

Gambling, Fatigue and Drowsy Driving. Nina Littman-Sharp. Presented at the 17th National Conference on Problem Gambling. June 20, 2003. An exploratory study of 66 problem gamblers presenting for treatment found that 82 percent reported driving while drowsy in the past year, with 26 percent admitting to dozing off at the wheel after gambling, rates much higher than reported in surveys of the general population. Problem gamblers also reported high levels of chronic sleep deprivation. In addition to highlighting the dangers of driving while sleep-deprived, the author points out that a chronic lack of sleep is associated with poor judgment, depression, and impulsivity, characteristics common in the problem gambler. She recommends that clinicians assess sleep deprivation in their clients.

 Staying in action: The pathological gambler's equivalent of the dry drunk Richard J. Rosenthal. Journal of Gambling Issues March 2005. "Dry drunks" have stopped drinking but still display alcoholic attitudes and behaviors. Rosenthal believes that many recovering gamblers exhibit similar behaviors by finding ways to "stay in action" without gambling. Ways of staying in action include substitute addictions, making bets in their mind, finding ways to take risks and test limits with everyday life events, and continues lying, cheating, or stealing. Therapists, he argues, need to seek for evidence of these activites as they can precede relapse and indicative of failure to achieve the personality change that accompanies lasting abstinence.

 Structural Changes to Electronic Gaming Machines as Effective Harm Minimization Strategies for Non-Problem and Problem Gamblers. Louise Sharpe, Michael Walker, Maree-Jo Coughlan, Kirsten Enersen, Alex Blaszczynski. Journal of Gambling Studies. 21:4, Winter 2005. 503-520. Many modifications have been proposed to make electronic gaming machines “safer” for their customers. This paper assessed the effectiveness of three of these modifications: reducing the maximum bet size, slowing the speed of play and removing large denomination bill acceptors. Eight machines representing every combination of these modifications were placed in Australian clubs and hotels, and 779 individuals were observed using them. Following play, they were given the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS). Of the three modifications, only the reduction in maximum bet size were found to be effective. Higher maximum bets were found to be more common in problem gamblers than non-problem gamblers, and machines modified to accept a one dollar maximum bet were played for less time and resulted in smaller losses. Reducing the speed of play and modifying bill acceptors had no effect on player’s gambling patterns.