A recently-published study suggests that voluntary participation in ‘self-help’ programs designed to combat problem gambling is not an effective tool for curbing future problematic gambling behaviours.
The study, published in Journal for Gambling Studies, attempted to determine the feasibility and efficacy of a brief online self-help program targeted at ‘concerned’ gamblers who perceived a need to change their gambling habits. 4,655 gamblers were recruited through the Swedish National Gambling Helpline website into a program consisting of four modules based on motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy. Participants were also encouraged to diarise their gambling expenditures in a ‘gambling log’.
Despite proving effective in initially recruiting participants, overall the study suffered a high attrition rate, with only 10% of participants completing their gambling log for more than fourteen days. From the log data collected the study was able to determine that for those participants who did continue to log their gambling expenditure for more than fourteen days and complete the program gambling expenditure increased over the duration of their gambling log. This study suggests that while gamblers are willing to acknowledge problematic gambling behaviour, ‘opt-in’ programs are not an effective long-term method of altering or eliminating problematic gambling behaviours.
The efficacy of ‘opt-in’ programs for problem gamblers is among the topics of a wide-ranging review of the United Kingdom’s Gambling Act 2005 being undertaken by the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport.