Gambling intensity and formats matter most, Volberg and co-authors find

Dr. Rachel Volberg, the Principal Investigator of the SEIGMA study, has recently published “Forms of gambling, gambling involvement, and problem gambling: Evidence from a Swedish population survey” in International Gambling Studies. Working in collaboration with colleagues from Sweden, Volberg’s article makes a distinct contribution to the gambling literature by teasing out how participating in specific forms of gambling, the number of gambling formats, and intensity (i.e., time and money spent) relate to problem gambling.
 
First, this study finds that time and money spent on gambling (i.e., intensity) is a much stronger predictor of whether one becomes a problem gambler than the number of gambling formats one participates in (i.e., involvement). To become a problem gambler, one must display high intensity; yet involvement does not need to be high. According to Volberg and her co-authors, the main issue is not that problem gamblers engage in several forms of gambling, but rather that they spend too much time and money when they gamble. Therefore, to mitigate gambling related harm, these findings suggest that prevention and treatment efforts ought to focus on the time and money people spend rather than recommending individuals engage in a specified number of gambling formats. 
 
Second, this article offers a corrective to research studies which argue that involvement (i.e., number of gambling formats) is a more important predictor of problem gambling than any particular form of gambling. In fact, their study found that over half of problem gamblers participated regularly in only one or two forms of gambling. In Sweden, regularly gambling on slot machines, casino table games, poker, or bingo were strongly associated with problem gambling. Harm minimization efforts – from gambling policy to responsible gambling initiatives – should focus on those who participate in specific gambling formats as particularly at risk of experiencing gambling related harm. 
 
Overall, from a prevention and treatment standpoint, it is important to warn people about regular participation in gambling formats strongly associated with problem gambling and about spending too much time and money on any form of gambling. For more information, find the full article here