Already at the table: Patterns of play and gambling involvement prior to gambling expansion


During 2011, the Governor of Massachusetts signed a bill to allow casino gambling in the state (Commonwealth of Massachusetts 2011). As a result, two resort casinos will begin operations during 2018 and 2019; a smaller slots parlor began operations during June 2015. Prior to this expansion, gambling was widely available in Massachusetts, through the state lottery, off-track betting, and gambling opportunities available in neighboring states. Within this context, it is important to understand the patterns of gambling involvement in the population prior to gambling expansion.

The current study examined gambling involvement, patterns of play, and gambling-related problems prior to gambling expansion among a sample of 511 Massachusetts residents who were members of a statewide Internet panel. To measure patterns of play, we asked questions about past-year games played and frequency of play. To measure breadth of involvement, we assessed the number of different games played. To measure depth of involvement, we measured time spent gambling, amount wagered, and amount won or lost.

Principal component analysis revealed four play pattern components accounting for more than 50% of the variance in game play frequency. Multiple regression analyses revealed that component scores composed of casino gambling and skill-based gambling (e.g., poker, sports) variables uniquely contributed to the prediction of gambling-related problems, even when depth of involvement was controlled. However, the addition of breadth of involvement to the model resulted in a model where no set of variables contributed significantly, suggesting a complex relationship among play patterns, depth, and breadth of involvement.

The study established discrete and distinguishable gambling play patterns associated with gambling-related problems and identified groups of individuals potentially vulnerable to the effects of gambling expansion.

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