Gambling Motives, Cognitions and Personality of Frequent VLT Players


Investigators Dr. Michael Ellery, University of Manitoba
Dr. Vance MacLaren, Brandon University
Research Priority Explore what risk and protective factors (individual, social, environmental) influence the movement back and forth between no risk and problem gambling risk levels.
Funding Small Grant  ($49,986)
Project Status Completed


Project Summary

Most people in Manitoba gamble, whether it be with lottery tickets, betting on sports, casino and card games, or video lottery terminals (VLTs).   While gambling has become more widespread and socially acceptable, little research has focused on normal gambling.  The question asked by this project concerns possible differences between the majority of nonproblem-but-frequent gamblers versus the smaller group who also play often but who do report significant symptoms of problem gambling.  Do they differ in terms of personality, gambling cognitions, or motives for gambling?  In this study we will focus specifically on people who play VLTs often.  The project will improve our understanding of what constitutes normal gambling and the kinds of individual player characteristics that may be risk factors for problem gambling among frequent VLT players.  The study will address a gap in our knowledge of low risk gambling by comparing the characteristics of problem gamblers who play VLTs often versus those who also play frequently but without problems.  Approximately 250 participants will be recruited using advertisements posted in VLT sites in and around Winnipeg, and on a community classified ads website.  To be in the study, they must be adults who play VLTs at least twice per month.  They will be promised a $50 giftcard for completing a comprehensive set of anonymous and confidential standard tests.  These include a measure of 5-factor personality traits (NEO PI-R), motivations for gambling (Gambling Motives Questionnaire), beliefs about gambling (Informational Biases Scale), and symptoms of problem gambling (Canadian Problem Gambling Inventory). 

While much is not yet known about the differences between problem gamblers versus nonproblem gamblers who play often, we do know enough to make some reasonable predictions as to what we expect to learn from this study.  First, problem gamblers may have personality characteristics that many experts believe to be risk factors for addictive behavior in general, and these personality features may be more extreme in the problem gamblers than in the nonproblem frequent players.  These individual characteristics may include 5-factor personality traits like impulsivity, disagreeableness, and a tendency to experience negative emotions.  Because these personality traits often relate to stable patterns of thinking, feeling and acting, it is possible that there may be some important differences in the motivations player cite as reasons for their frequent gambling.  We expect to find that the problem players are more likely to use gambling as a way to temporarily escape from perceived problems in other areas of their lives.  This type of motivation would be measured as higher scores on the “Coping” scale of the Gambling Motives Questionnaire.  Furthermore, we expect to see more unusual beliefs about gambling among the problem players, and we will measure these “cognitive distortions” using the Informational Biases Scale.  All of these personality, motivation, and cognitive features may contribute to why some people develop problem gambling symptoms while others do not, even though they also play the games often.  If all of these predictions are supported, we hope to use this information to develop a statistical model to test our idea that basic personality traits contribute to the unusual beliefs and motivations that problem gamblers have, and that these factors ultimately create higher risk for problem gambling among people who play often.


MacLaren, V., Ellery, M. & Knoll, T. (2015). Personality, gambling motives and
          cognitive distortions in electronic gambling machine players. Personality
          and Individual Differences, 73
, 24-28. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.09.019

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