Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Will Problem Gamblers Self-Limit?

Self-exclusion and self-limit programs are aimed at people who have, or fear they might have, self-control problems with wagering. Most of the people who choose to self-exclude do seem to be problem or pathological gamblers. But if you offer a voluntary self-limiting program -- say, the option of making a commitment prior to entering a casino to spend no more than $x there (where the gambler can choose x) -- will people who have gambling problems choose to participate? A recent study by Lia Nower and Alex Blaszczynski suggests that problem gamblers might not be all that eager to take part.

The study looks at 127 adults who, on their way into an Australian casino, agreed to fill out questionnaires. Based on the ensuing self-reports, 20 of these people were categorized as problem gamblers. When asked about whether they would take advantage of "smart card" technology that would allow them to limit their monetary exposure once inside the casino, the problem gamblers were less likely than everyone else to endorse the use of such cards. Further, the problem gamblers who were willing to use the cards were more likely to want the cards to be flexible, so that additional funds could be accessed during a single session or additional cards purchased. This relative reluctance to limit gambling losses is indicated despite the fact that problem gamblers also were the most likely to lose track of their monetary situation (money won or lost) during a gambling session.

Many gamblers who self-exclude do so only after wagering has wreaked havoc upon their lives. Does a lack of sophistication by problem gamblers about their own future self-control issues suggest the desirability of a mandatory regime of limit setting, such as that maintained at Svenska Spel's internet poker facility?

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