The Impact of Speed of Play in Gambling on Psychological and Behavioural Factors: A Critical Review

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The Impact of Speed of Play in Gambling on Psychological and Behavioural Factors: A Critical Review

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Gambling games affect time

Postby Kigakree В» 30.01.2020

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Conceptually, there is a common association between gambling games with fast speeds of play and problem gambling. This relationship however, is largely correlational in nature, which comes at the expense of carefully controlled empirical investigation. Research that does exist aimed towards investigating the impact of gambling speeds on psychological and behavioural factors, is in its relative infancy, and the research possesses disparate methodologies and variables of interest.

The aims of the current review is therefore to evaluate and summarise the existing body of evidence relating to speed of play in gambling, as well as discuss how this evidence can be used to inform harm minimisation approaches aimed at facilitating self-control during gambling. Eleven studies were selected for review based on the inclusion criteria, comprising nine experimental and two qualitative studies one self-report focus group study and one observational study.

There was a consistent finding across studies that games with faster speeds of play were preferred and rated as more exciting for all gamblers, ranging from non-problem to problem gamblers. Of concern, was the repeated finding that fast games are particularly appealing to those suffering with a gambling problem. Behavioural results were more inconsistent across studies, though the general trend supports the notion that games with faster speeds of play encourage more wagers, longer game play, and caused players, particularly problem gamblers, to experience difficulty in ceasing gambling.

The implications of these findings for gambling policy, harm minimisation approaches, and future research are discussed. Games with fast speeds of play are frequently associated with problem gambling. For example, it has frequently been observed that problem gamblers seeking intervention or treatment for their disordered gambling often report rapid forms of gambling such as electronic game machines [EGMs] as a primary cause of their disordered gambling e.

In the psychological gambling literature, speed of play is inextricably associated with event frequency, a structural characteristic referring to the number of gambling events within a given time period and operationalized as the time interval between successive wagers on any given gambling game [Griffiths and Auer ]. For example, the event frequency of a bi-weekly lottery is twice a week, whereas the event frequency on an EGM that spins 12 times a minute is five seconds.

A fast speed of play has been identified as one of the key features that appeal to gamblers and is therefore more likely to be associated with both higher levels of gambling participation generally, as well as gambling-related harm Parke and Griffiths Of concern is evidence suggesting games with fast speeds of play, such as EGMs, are particularly appealing to problem gamblers Griffiths Several theoretical propositions exist that attempt to account for the relationship between high event frequency gambling participation and disordered gambling.

For instance, the rapid sequencing of gambling stimuli accompanied with reward i. This may give rise to the gambler experiencing a dissociative state, and it has been argued that such psychological states, facilitated by games with fast speeds, are pleasurable to the gambler Griffiths et al.

During such dissociative experiences, the need for more conscious and deliberate decision-making is limited, providing negative reinforcement to gamble by reducing tension and escaping wider psychological distress that may be experienced in everyday life Fang and Mowen However, Norman and Shallice argue that there are specific situations where the routine activation of behaviour, at the expense of top-down executive control, is maladaptive.

Unsurprisingly, among the situations Norman and Shallice identify include those where potential danger can be experienced, or situations that require planning and decision-making. Given that gambling is a situation requiring the constant updating of goals and adjustment of behaviour, as well as a situation where harm may be experienced, it may be maladaptive for gambling features such as speed of play to facilitate dissociative experiences.

The subsequent reward, which is exciting and pleasurable to the individual, reinforces the behaviour and consequently leaves individuals highly sensitive to potential rewards and makes extinction of the behaviour difficult. Pickering and Gray argue that dopaminergic fibres ascending from both the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental areas of the brain, that innervate the basal ganglia, together with motor, sensorimotor, and prefrontal regions, are assumed to drive this system.

It has been demonstrated that those with abnormalities in dopaminergic functioning, as well as ventro-medial prefrontal cortex structures, are at risk of developing problem gambling due to abnormalities in the way reward and punishment is processed Goudriaan et al. Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that gamblers with increased sensitivity to reward will be attracted to games with high event frequencies, as such games are more likely to provide increased levels of reward in a relatively shorter period of time.

Alternatively, sensitivity to punishment or loss is seen as a protective factor in the persistence of risk-taking behaviour e. Games with high event frequencies also deliver relatively higher rates of loss, and therefore conceptually, one could predict that such factors result in fast games being avoided for gamblers with higher levels of punishment sensitivity.

Paradoxically, research demonstrates that this is not the case for gamblers with high levels of sensitivity to reward and punishment. For example, Gaher et al. Response modulation is a cognitive process whereby the individual disengages attention on the ongoing activity to re-evaluate and adjust behaviour according to the current reinforcement rate of the behaviour in question e.

Behavioural perseverance despite negative consequence is a hallmark sign of a wide range of clinical disorders including psychopathy Newman et al. Consequently, if a gambler is not afforded the opportunity to pause and reflect between gambling events, it is less likely that they will respond adaptively to punishment e. High event frequency games allow less opportunity for such reflection and adaptation of behaviour and are therefore more likely to lead to behaviour symptomatic of problem gambling.

In support of this notion, experimental evidence suggests that when problem gamblers are forced to pause for five seconds between events, they do not persist in gambling longer than non-problem gamblers Corr and Thompson ; Thompson and Corr However, it is unclear whether this effect is due to increased reflection time, or more simply, that the pause made the game less enjoyable.

Both factors are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Whilst these theoretical models have high face validity in explaining why fast speeds of play are associated with disordered gambling, a significant problem remains in that the empirical relationship is largely correlational.

The argument can be made that a weak empirical association between fast speeds of play and disordered gambling is potentially harmful to scientific research into this relationship, as it assumes an extensive knowledge-base has already been established.

Therefore, one of the goals of the present review is to identify the gaps in the current understanding relating to the impact of high event frequency on gamblers across the entire spectrum of problem gambling behaviour. An additional reason for carrying out the present review paper is to collectively establish what is already known in terms of the psychological and behavioural factors that high event frequency games impact. As far as the authors are aware, no previous literature review has ever examined speed of play in gambling as the single focus although more general reviews of structural characteristics in gambling have devoted small sections of such overviews to theoretical descriptions of event frequency e.

Once the initially retrieved papers had been filtered according to title and abstract content, a more in-depth assessment was conducted using the inclusion criteria as guidance. The remaining papers were then categorised according to the type of study reported: experimental or qualitative.

Using this method, a total of 11 studies remained for critical review comprising nine experimental studies and two qualitative studies one focus group interview study and one observational study.

The studies are critically reviewed in chronological order. Overt gambling behaviour variables included total plays, time spent gambling, and speed of play. Results relating to speed of play demonstrated that on average, regular gamblers played significantly faster eight gambles per minute compared to non-regular gamblers six gambles per minute.

The mean speed of play rate was reduced in the thinking out loud condition for non-regular gamblers from 6. Because cognitive biases were the main focus of this experiment and not speed of play, and the fact that speed of play was used as one of several dependent variables, knowledge gained in terms of the impact of speed on the gambler is limited. Reasons for this may simply be due to the fact that regular gamblers are more familiar with the gambling product and consequently, the game mechanics, allowing them to operate the games at a faster pace through familiarity and competence.

Loba et al. Participants were on average Of note, pathological gamblers reported significantly more difficulty in stopping gambling than non-pathological gamblers when speed of play was increased accompanied by sound. However, it is not made clear to what extent the game speeds were increased or decreased relative to a control condition, as no information on VLT event frequency was provided. This is an important omission, as it is not known if the pathological gamblers were sensitive to small changes in event frequency, or if in fact the speed manipulations were large.

In addition, the use of dichotomous participant groupings, non-pathological vs pathological gamblers, overlooked the fact that pathological gambling behaviour is viewed along a continuum of problematic behaviours and intensities, where several intermediate levels of risk between non-pathological and pathological gambling exist Currie and Casey In terms of the impact of speed of play on self-reported gambling experiences, it is important to acknowledge that speed of play was manipulated concurrently to other multiple structural game changes.

This makes it difficult to ascertain the proportional impact of each manipulation on reported gambling experiences, and therefore does not shed light on the impact of speed of play on gambling experiences in isolation. However, it is understandable why speed was not isolated in Loba et al. Sharpe et al. Participants comprised gamblers, from which participants provided SOGS scores. Participant mean age was Speed of play was one of the independent variables, being manipulated at two levels: 3.

The speed manipulations had little effect on gambling behaviour. However, it is not possible to tell from this study whether reductions in speed of play would be differentially effective for problem gamblers as compared to non-problem gamblers, because there were insufficient numbers of problem gamblers included in the study.

In addition, that fact that gambling behaviour was being observed by the researchers may in turn have produced demand characteristics, possibly resulting in gamblers behaving in a more controlled and moderate manner, gambling more slowly and deliberately as a result.

Blaszczynski et al. They conducted a live experiment in hotels and clubs in the Sydney region of Australia, comprising more than participants of various non-problem and problem gambling statuses who played on modified experimental and non-modified gaming machines.

As well as manipulating speed of play, experimental machines were modified to limit the maximum bet size and reduce the high denomination note acceptors compared to control machines. Limiting the maximum bet size and note acceptor modifications had a non-significant impact on self-reported satisfaction and enjoyment levels for both social and problem gamblers.

However, satisfaction ratings were reduced significantly when both social and problem gamblers played the machines modified to a five-second event frequency, when compared to the unmodified machines with three-second event frequencies.

There was a non-significant impact of slowing the event frequencies on self-reported enjoyment levels, although Blaszczynski et al. There was no interaction effect between levels of enjoyment of three- and five-second event frequencies and problem gambling status, although overall, problem gamblers rated all EGMs as less enjoyable than social gamblers. While satisfaction ratings reached statistical significance, the largest difference in satisfaction and enjoyment scores between the modified and control machines was just 8.

This suggests that reasons for the reduced satisfaction and enjoyment ratings were subconscious, at least for the majority of the gamblers in this experiment. An alternate explanation could be that the overall effect of reduced satisfaction and enjoyment was driven only by those gamblers that were able to detect the reduced speed modification. Further post hoc statistical analysis would be required to provide evidence for such claims. Delfabbro, Falzon and Ingram conducted three laboratory-based experiments in South Australia assessing the impact of parameter variation on simulated EGMs in terms of their impact on subjective gambling experience and observable gambling behaviour.

The EGM manipulations included reinforcement magnitude and frequency Experiment 1 , sound and screen illumination Experiment 2 , and outcome display and speed manipulation Experiment 3. The speed of play in Experiment 3 was manipulated at two levels to provide machines with both a 3. Participants exposed to the speed of play manipulations were 24 gamblers 15 males with various gambling experiences, participation rates, and problem gambling statuses.

The mean age of participants in Experiment 3 was After this mandatory exposure, participants were given a free choice to continue gambling on one of the four machines. Speed of play was shown to significantly influence excitement ratings, with faster speeds yielding a significantly higher rating than slower speed games. Preference ratings were again, significantly higher for faster speed machines.

Display type dollars vs. There was no significant impact of speed of play in terms of the amount spent gambling on the machines overall, but the total amount of games played was significantly higher in the fast speed condition. Control measures indicated that these differences in subjective experience ratings and gambling behaviour could not simply be attributed to specific machines yielding a higher return to player or win rate, indicating the effects were driven by the speed manipulations alone.

Neither gender, nor problem gambling status, interacted with the manipulations to produce significant effects, though these small sub-sample comparisons may not be reliable given the low number of participants in each category e. Participants comprised 43 gamblers 22 females from the Quebec City region of Canada.

Gambling participation rates ranged from times over the past six months, with an approximate overall mean average of three times in the past six months. Speed of play was manipulated at two levels, with one group being exposed to a VLT game with a five-second event frequency, the other group a second event frequency. Gamblers in the five-second condition played more games and underestimated the number of games they had played compared to participants in the slow speed condition.

However, speed of play did not have a statistically significant impact on participant levels of concentration during gambling, motivation to continue gambling, or self-control in terms of time and money spent gambling. The authors concluded that the slower speed VLT game did not appear to have any positive impact in terms of facilitating more controlled gambling behaviour among the participants studied.

Consequently, a five-second event frequency would arguably be considered slow for specific forms of EGM gambling. Motivation to continue playing was extremely low in both speed conditions, with mean motivation scores of 2. Enjoyment ratings of both games were also arguably very modest, with mean enjoyment ratings 2.

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