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Gambling Addiction

A recent episode of the American Psychological Association’s flagship podcast “Speaking of Psychology” addresses the effects of new laws and regulations, such as decreased restriction on sports betting and the continuing expansion of online gambling, which have increased access to gambling. This episode features two experts in this field: Dr. Lia Nower, director of the Rutgers University Center for Gambling Studies and Dr. Shane Kraus, Director of the Behavioral Addictions Lab at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Drs. Nower and Kraus discuss how shifts in laws regarding gambling relate to risk of gambling addictions and address broader topics related to gambling including stigma, treatment, and advertising. Dr. Kraus provides a framework for understanding gambling disorder as a behavioral addiction characterized by craving, loss chasing, decreased impulse control, and experiences of negative consequences associated with gambling. He further notes research demonstrating that neurological processes occur in people with gambling and people with substance use disorders. As changes in laws around sports betting relate to increases in gambling disorders, Dr. Nower states that, although it is too soon to provide any definitive evidence, rates of high-risk gambling are higher in states with greater gambling accessibility, such as New Jersey. She anticipates that, as access increases, there will be similar increases in acceptability, which in turn will increase engagement in gambling activities. Additionally, Drs. Nower and Kraus provide an overview of the risk factors associated with high-risk gambling, including histories of maltreatment, trauma exposure, family history of gambling, and military history. Specifically for sports betting, Dr. Kraus notes an increase in young adult males and predicts that increased betting using personal technologies may increase gambling among a younger population. The podcast goes on to a discussion of issues in gambling, such as screening for problematic gambling behaviors and what outlets exist for accessing support, such as Gamblers Anonymous and evidenced-based therapies. The discussion highlights how individuals may be exposed to gambling cues in childhood and adolescence through online gaming and addresses the inclusion of “chance” elements based on monetary or virtual payments within games that may prime younger individuals to develop problematic gambling behaviors.

Looking to the future, Drs. Nower and Krauss discuss the critical need for increased government policies, oversight for gambling operators, restrictions to advertising, and increased funding for gambling-related research.

Source: Speaking of Psychology, episode number 249 (July 2023). Will easier access to gambling mean more gambling addiction? https://www.apa.org/news/podcasts/speaking-of-psychology/gambling-addiction