Alcohol affects video lottery terminal (VLT) gambling behaviors and cognitions differently

Abstract

People frequently combine alcohol use and gambling. However, our understanding of the effects of alcohol on gambling behavior is limited, both in terms of what the effects are and how they occur. The effects of a moderately intoxicating dose of alcohol (i.e., a blood alcohol concentration of .06g%) on the video lottery terminal (VLT) gambling behaviors and cognitions of community-recruited nonpathological (n = 30) and probable pathological gamblers (n = 30) were compared. Alcohol increased the rate of double up betting (i.e., choosing to play a bonus game, after a winning video poker hand, which involves trying to pick a higher ranked card than the dealer's card from among 5 face down cards) of probable pathological gamblers, but did not influence their irrational beliefs about VLT play. Alcohol maintained the irrational beliefs about VLT play of nonpathological gamblers, but did not influence their gambling behaviors. Results are consistent with a growing body of research finding that gambling cognitions have an equivocal role in explaining actual gambling behaviors. Potential mechanisms for the observed effects are discussed. Applied implications discussed include: educating regular VLT players about the effects of alcohol on irrational gambling cognitions; reconsidering policies and practices that make alcohol available where machine gambling takes place; and targeting even moderate alcohol use in the treatment of gambling problems.

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