The ‘light drugs’ of gambling? Non-problematic gambling activities of pathological gamblers


Our aim was to investigate whether harmless gambling activities exist for pathological gamblers. A total of 169 pathological gamblers who recently quit were recruited by media announcements. Respondents were asked at baseline to report any gambling activities not causing them problems, as well as those causing problems. The gambling activities were categorized as follows: lottery, scratch tickets, bingo, betting or card games with friends/family, horse racing, raffle, casino games and video lottery terminals. Only a small proportion (16%) of respondents reported not having any non-problematic gambling activities, 45% reported one, 28% two, 10% three, and 1% four non-problematic activities. Further, involvement in most of these activities was unrelated to both baseline and follow-up gambling problem severity (NODS, SOGS), depression level (CES-D), frequency of gambling and extent of gambling losses. However, some exceptions were observed in case of involvement in casino (higher NODS and SOGS scores and gambling-related losses) and bingo games (higher gambling-related losses). These findings provide some support for the idea that pathological gamblers who wish to give up harmful gambling can continue involvement in some types of gambling and that this is a ‘good enough’ goal for pathological gamblers; complete abstinence may not be necessary.

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