Breaks in play: Do they achieve intended aims?

Abstract

Breaks in play represent a responsible gambling strategy designed to disrupt states of dissociation and enhance the likelihood of drawing attention to a player’s session behaviour and expenditure with respect to time and money. The aim of the break in play is to motivate the player to modify or cease gambling so the activity remains within affordable levels. The aim of this study was to investigate whether imposed breaks in play in the absence of accompanying warning messages were effective in reducing cravings. Participants (141 university students) were randomly allocated to one of three conditions: 15 min computer simulated Black Jack play followed by no break, a 3 or 8 min break in play. Participants were administered a battery of measures to assess problem gambling card play, cravings, and dissociation to assess the effects of length of break on cravings. Results indicated that cravings increased rather than decreased with imposed breaks in play, and that the strength of cravings were higher following the eight- compared to 3-min break. It was concluded that breaks in play in isolation might produce counterproductive, unintended, and even perverse effects. The policy implications for responsible gambling strategies is that breaks in play ought to be accompanied with warning and/or personal appraisal messages if optimal effects in reducing within session gambling expenditure are to be achieved.

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