How do gamblers end gambling: longitudinal analysis of Internet gambling behaviors prior to account closure due to gambling related problems

Ziming Xuan, Howard Shaffer
Journal of Gambling Studies 2009, 25 (2): 239-52

OBJECTIVE: To examine behavioral patterns of actual Internet gamblers who experienced gambling-related problems and voluntarily closed their accounts.

DESIGN: A nested case-control design was used to compare gamblers who closed their accounts because of gambling problems to those who maintained open accounts.

SETTING: Actual play patterns of in vivo Internet gamblers who subscribed to an Internet gambling site.

PARTICIPANTS: 226 gamblers who closed accounts due to gambling problems were selected from a cohort of 47,603 Internet gamblers who subscribed to an Internet gambling site during February 2005; 226 matched-case controls were selected from the group of gamblers who did not close their accounts. Daily aggregates of behavioral data were collected during an 18-month study period.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Main outcomes of interest were daily aggregates of stake, odds, and net loss, which were standardized by the daily aggregate number of bets. We also examined the number of bets to measure trajectory of gambling frequency.

RESULTS: Account closers due to gambling problems experienced increasing monetary loss as the time to closure approached; they also increased their stake per bet. Yet they did not chase longer odds; their choices of wagers were more probabilistically conservative (i.e., short odds) compared with the controls. The changes of monetary involvement and risk preference occurred concurrently during the last few days prior to voluntary closing.

CONCLUSIONS: Our finding of an involvement-seeking yet risk-averse tendency among self-identified problem gamblers challenges the notion that problem gamblers seek "long odds" during "chasing."

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