Manipulations of the features of standard video lottery terminals (VLT) games: Effects in pathological and non-pathological gamblers

Abstract

The present study was conducted to identify game parameters that would reduce the risk of abuse of video lottery terminals (VLTs) by pathological gamblers, while exerting minimal effects on the behavior of non-pathological gamblers. Three manipulations of standard VLT game features were explored. Participants were exposed to: a counter which displayed a running total of money spent; a VLT spinning reels game where participants could no longer "stop" the reels by touching the screen; and sensory feature manipulations. In control conditions, participants were exposed to standard settings for either a spinning reels or a video poker game. Dependent variables were self-ratings of reactions to each set of parameters. A set of 2(3) x 2 x 2 (game manipulation [experimental condition(s) vs. control condition] x game [spinning reels vs. video poker] x gambler status [pathological vs. non-pathological]) repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted on all dependent variables. The findings suggest that the sensory manipulations (i.e., fast speed/sound or slow speed/no sound manipulations) produced the most robust reaction differences. Before advocating harm reduction policies such as lowering sensory features of VLT games to reduce potential harm to pathological gamblers, it is important to replicate findings in a more naturalistic setting, such as a real bar.

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