Behavioural Indicators and Player Characteristics of Frequent VLT Players


Investigators Dr. Vance MacLaren, Brandon University
Research Priority Examine what constitutes normative gambling (i.e. no risk or low risk) and what key factors keep gambling at a non-problem or low risk level.
Funding Small Grant  ($22,288)
Project Status Completed


Project Summary

Responsibility for the conduct and management of legal electronic gambling machines (i.e. video lottery terminals, casino slot machines, and video instant ticket vending machines) falls under the jurisdiction of provincial governments and their agencies.  Because of the potentially high social and financial impacts on some players, all of the Canadian provinces have periodically monitored the prevalence of problem gambling using telephone surveys.  Because the prevalence of problem gambling is low, population surveys aimed at measuring the phenomenon are typically large and expensive endeavors.  Nevertheless, some form of monitoring is essential to guide public policy aimed at supporting the viability of the industry while mitigating potential negative impacts.

The study will use simple self-report measures of how much people play electronic gambling machines, and these indicators will be compared to the standard measure used in survey research on problem gambling, which is known as the Canadian Problem Gambling Inventory.  A recent study by Quilty, Murati & Bagby (2013) used this approach for finding safe gambling limits for a variety of other forms of gambling, but their sample did not have enough electronic gambling machine players to calculate limits for playing VLTs and slots.  Electronic gambling machines have a reputation for being associated with problem gambling, and not knowing what patterns of playing them may be associated with problem gambling is a serious gap in our current knowledge.  This survey will address this issue by focusing on a sample of people from Brandon, Manitoba who have all played electronic gambling machines within the past year.  It is expected that some of them play a lot, some very rarely, and most fall somewhere between those extremes.  By collecting information from them on how often they play, how much money they spend, and how much time they spend playing, we hope to be able to create a statistical model that can accurately identify the problem gamblers among the nonproblem players. One long range application of this approach could collect simple measures of gambling frequency, duration and expenditure on an ongoing basis using information that is routinely recorded using player loyalty cards or at internet gaming sites.  This could allow gambling researchers in the future to efficiently monitor the incidence of problem gambling in real time and without the need for expensive and complicated surveys.

Another aim of this study will be to collect information about problem and nonproblem players' personality, motives for gambling, and beliefs about gambling.  This part of the survey will be used to  replicate an earlier MGRP-funded study that we did, but using a different set of measures to validate those earlier findings about player characteristics that may increase vulnerability to problem gambling.

Quilty, L. C., Avila Murati, D., & Bagby, R. M. (2013). Identifying Indicators of
          Harmful and Problem Gambling in a Canadian Sample Through
          Receiver Operating Characteristic Analysis. Psychology of Addictive
          Behaviors. Advance online publication avail. online May 6, 2013           
          available at 


MacLaren, V. (2016). Video Lottery is the Most Harmful Form of Gambling in
          Canada. Journal of Gambling Studies, 32(2), 459-85.
          doi: 10.1007/s10899-015-9560-z.

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