Gambling Disorders 360°

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Research Update on Gambling Disorders: Self-regulation

by: NCRG Staff | Sep 26, 2011

Responsible gaming programs typically advise gamblers to set a budget for time and money spent gambling and other self-management techniques designed to avoid problems with gambling. Research is now beginning to examine the types of strategies used by recreational gamblers and people with gambling problems. A new study from Australia demonstrates this trend (Moore et al., 2011).

The authors of this preliminary study were interested not only in how those without gambling problems avoid problematic gambling behavior, but also how people with gambling disorders reduced or stopped their gambling. One of the most recent studies in this literature, to be discussed by Dr. Wendy Slutske at the NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, revealed that a large percentage of Australians who have recovered from a gambling disorder are able to participate in “controlled gambling.” In other words, they are able to gamble without relapse (Slutske, 2009). Understanding their strategies will help inform responsible gaming programs, brief interventions and treatment approaches.

In Dr. Moore’s research with his colleagues, the study sample of 303 gamblers included 63 who qualified as problem gamblers, according to the Problem Gambling Severity Index of the Canadian Problem Gambling Index (CPGI; Ferris and Wynne 2001; Moore et al, 2011). The study participants identified how often they used each of 27 strategies that complete the statement, “To help me limit or manage my gambling, I….”

The total sample, including both non-problem and problem gamblers, rated the following as the top four strategies to limit gambling behaviors:

-  “Focus on other hobbies”

-  “Set a target budget for my gambling and stick to it”

-  “Think about the negative consequences of excessive gambling”

-  “Keep track of the money I spend on gambling”

Among non-problem gamblers only, the following ranked as their top four strategies:

-  “Focus on other hobbies”

-  “Think about the negative consequences of excessive gambling”

-  “Set a target budget for my gambling and stick to it”

-  “Keep track of the money I spend on gambling”

The strategies least subscribed to by non-problem gamblers were: cut up my credit cards; get professional help for my gambling; and have myself voluntarily excluded from a gambling venue.

Individuals who met criteria for problem gambling ranked the following management techniques as most used:

-  “Focus on other hobbies”

-  “Spend more time with family and friends”

-  “Think about the negative consequences of excessive gambling”

-  “Keep track of the money I spend on gambling”

-  “Talk to family and friends about my gambling”

The lowest ranked techniques for this group were: having myself voluntarily excluded from a gambling venue; ask a friend to look out for me when I’m at a gambling venue; and cut up my credit cards.

The authors summarized the findings: “Overall, strategies concerned with setting limits on bet size and time spent gambling, reminding oneself of the negative consequences of gambling and distraction with other activities were the most frequently used techniques, with about half the sample employing these at some time or other. Most of these techniques involve some kind of cognitive restructuring—thinking about gambling in a different way, either to attempt to reduce its attraction or to try to rein in that attraction” (Moore et al., 2011, p. 13). The researchers recommend future research focused on the use of these strategies among larger samples.


Ferris, J., & Wynne, H. J. (2001). The Canadian problem gambling index: Final report. Available from

Moore, S.M., Thomas, A.C., Kyrios, M., & Bates, G. (2011). The Self-Regulation of Gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies. [Epub ahead of print]

Slutske, W.S., Piasecki, T.M., Blaszczynski, A., & Martin, N.G. (2010). Pathological gambling recovery in the absence of abstinence. Addiction,105(12), 2169-2175.

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