Professional and pathological gamblers: Similarities and differences

Abstract

Although much recent research has focused on the gambling practices and psychosocial functioning of pathological gamblers, few investigations have examined the characteristics of professional gamblers. The current project sought to address this gap in the literature by conducting a quantitative comparison of professional and pathological gamblers. Pathological gamblers were recruited and balanced with professional gamblers on demographic variables and preferred gambling activity. A total of 22 professional gamblers and 13 pathological gamblers completed an extensive self-report battery including instruments assessing demographics, gambling behaviors and problems, other psychiatric disorders, current psychosocial functioning, recent stressful events, personality characteristics, and intelligence. Pathological and professional gamblers reported similar rates of gambling frequency and intensity and types of games played. Pathological gamblers endorsed poor psychosocial functioning, whereas professional gamblers reported a rate of psychiatric distress within a normative range. Pathological gamblers also reported lower gambling self-efficacy, greater impulsivity, and more past-year DSM-IV Axis I disorders than professional gamblers. The results of the present study shed light on the unique circumstances of professional gamblers, as well as underscore important differences between such individuals and pathological gamblers that could prove fruitful in future research and intervention and prevention efforts.

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