NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Does Exposure to New Gambling Lead to Gambling Problems? A Case Study from Canada

As legalized gambling and new casinos are introduced to communities around the world, researchers are reexamining whether exposure to gambling increases gambling problems in those areas.

Robert Ladouceur, professor of psychology at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, presented his recent study today during the afternoon plenary session, Does Exposure to New Gambling Lead to Problem Gambling? A Case Study from Canada, evaluating the impact of a new casino in Hull, Quebec. Ladouceur and co-author Christian Jacques' study weighed the results of Hull residents to the comparison group of residents in Quebec City. He explained that participants in the study answered gambling-related questions one month before the casino opening, one year after the casino opening, and again at the 2- and 4- year marks. Participants were evaluated on how frequently they participated in casino games and gambling activities and the amount of money lost in one day's gambling. They were also questioned on whether they had a pathological gambler in their household.

During the session, Ladouceur reiterated that 70-80% of adults who reside in areas where gambling is available have gambled in the last year. He also noted that less than 1% of the adult population was found to have a gambling problem.

Ladouceur stated that the conventional wisdom is that exposure to gambling leads to problem gambling. At the outset of the study, Ladouceur said he believed that this conventional wisdom held some truth and expected that the study would show that the longer at-risk individuals were exposed to gambling, the higher the rates of problem gambling would be. But he pointed out that this was shown not to be the case. While the study showed a significant increase in gambling activities at the one year mark, the trend did not continue at the 2- and 4- year marks. Ladouceur went on to say the data showed that after an initial increase in gambling in the community when a new casino opens, the frequency in gambling activities decreases over time. He explained this pattern has been exemplified in other studies and is known as the "social adaptation" model. The study points out that this may be because the novelty of casino games wears off and individuals move onto new activities.

When participants were asked at the 4-year mark if a member of their household had a gambling problem, Ladouceur said Hull residents reported more gambling problems than Quebec City. But he pointed out that it was impossible to determine how accurately the participants perceived the problem.

Ladouceur cited other studies that point out that participation in gambling activities is a prerequisite condition for developing gambling problems, in the same way that alcohol consumption is a prerequisite to developing a drinking problem. But he went on say, "In the case of gambling, the exposure to gambling is not sufficient to create a problem." While Ladouceur explained that he originally believed that the hypotheses were logical and made sense in the "conventional wisdom" framework, he concluded that the empirical data did not support it.

To access Ladouceur’s full study click here, or visit the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders’ NCRG Conference Resource Page. When prompted, please enter the case-sensitive password: institute.


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