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Is measuring problem gambling behaviour the best way to determine RG program effectiveness?

One of the ongoing challenges for those who develop and implement responsible gambling programming is trying to determine their overall effectiveness.   Assessing behaviours amongst players experiencing problems, or measuring PG rates among a targeted population has been a useful, if limited, tool for RG planning.  But relying primarily on problem gambling data comes with at least two problems. 

First, problem gambling rates, even among gamblers, are low: typically, from 1 to 4 percent of the general population.  This leads to challenges in interpreting data because samples of problem gamblers are very small and can be difficult to identify.  And it’s hard to draw generalized conclusions with very small sample sizes.

Second, gaining insight into behaviours associated with problem gamblers is not necessarily helpful in determining appropriate RG strategies for those whose gambling is not necessarily showing overt indications of a problem.

A team of Canadian researchers developed an alternative strategy: identify those in a gambling population that are not experiencing problems (they call this group “positive players”) and determine what it is that they have in common as a basis for developing effective RG programming.

In 2016, Richard Wood, Michael Wohl, Nassim Tabri and Kahlil Philander conducted an extensive 3-part research project in British Columbia which resulted in the creation of the Positive Play Scale (see Measuring Responsible Gambling amongst Players: Development of the Positive Play Scale, Frontiers in Psychology 2017, vol. 8, p. 227).  The researchers analyzed data collected from nearly 2000 British Columbians about both their gambling beliefs and behaviours.  The resulting PPS is “the first validated scale that reliably defines and assesses the extent to which a consumer base has positive beliefs about gambling and gambles in a positive manner.”

In 2017/18 Wood and Wohl undertook a larger validation study across Canada with almost 8000 players, which was funded by the Canadian Responsible Gambling Association.  This study enabled both a national bench-mark for positive gambling to emerge, and allowed individual jurisdictions to compare their results.

The PPS is a useful addition to the RG toolbox.  It can allow operators and regulators to objectively assess programs intended to promote healthy gambling behaviours, and also to tailor programming for specific player segments.  This not only allows for more segment-relevant messaging, but more efficient targeting of RG resources where it is likely to have the most impact.

Paul SmithPositive Play