“Well, while I’m here I might as well have a flutter”: Gambling venues and the use of intrinsic association
Back in 1978, Derek Cornish published a book that included the first review of situational characteristics in gambling. One of the characteristics – although not given an explicit name – was later termed by Dr Jonathan Parke (Salford University) and myself as “intrinsic association”. Intrinsic association basically refers to the degree to which the gambling activity is associated with other interests and attractions. For example, betting at a sporting event at which the gambler would normally attend anyway. In casino terms, this could refer to gambling on a slot machine as an ancillary activity to being in the casino for other reasons (e.g., being in there to see a live music show or boxing match, dining out with friends). Another variation of this is “proximity play”. This could be described as participating in an activity as a consequence of it being located next to something else that the person was doing (e.g., being in the casino primarily to play blackjack but going on to play a slot machine instead).
The association between gambling and sport also has implications, primarily the ability to class gambling as a subtype of sport that in turn leads to the attribution of social respectability. In his review, Cornish also argued that sporting interests may often act as a pathway to gambling. Individuals can be introduced to gambling in attempt to make the sporting experience more entertaining and enjoyable. Gradually, the enjoyment from betting at sporting events can transfer to into more familiar environments and to other types of betting. Sport is another way that gambling can expose itself, and provide the potential gambler with another opportunity to gamble if one did not previously exist or appeal. Therefore, in addition to be potentially being a pathway to gambling, association with sport is also a mechanism through which gambling can be made socially acceptable.
These other amenities (e.g., the provision of food) have the potential to prolong gambling activity. Jonathan Parke and I assert this is of particular importance to problem gamblers since they:
- Often gambling for long periods of time.
- Are often reluctant to leave a slot machine or the roulette table to get a drink or food, or go to the toilet as they are often chasing losses do not want to lose their lucky seat or favorite machine.
For instance, in a New Zealand study reported by Ralph Gerdelan, thirty bars that housed slot machines were compared with another thirty that did not. In the bars without slot machines, almost all of the clientele drank pints of beer. However, in the bars with slot machines, only 8% of the clientele drank pint measures. The main reason for this was that slot machine players did not want to leave the machines to go to the toilet in case someone ‘stole’ their machine. The gambling treatment specialist, Joanna Franklin has also reported that a proportion of her female clients had developed bladder problems as a result of their prolonged slot machine gambling, Again, these gamblers are holding off going to the toilet because they do not want to lose “their” machine, and allegedly damaging their bladder in the process.
There is currently no empirical evidence to show that offering refreshments prolongs gambling behaviour, and it could be argued that offering refreshments forces gamblers to take a break as they will eventually need to use the bathroom. Furthermore, if refreshments are offered in the form of a sit down meal rather than a take away option, then making use of such facilities would ensure a break from gambling behavior. Although a refreshed gambler may stay at a gambling venue for longer periods, engaging in a meal would offer a period of contemplation (i.e., a reflective time out) that could be useful for a vulnerable player. However, problem gamblers may be unlikely to spend money on a meal and may favour spending their money on gambling instead.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Cornish, D.B. (1978). Gambling: A review of the literature and its implications for policy and research. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.
Gerdelan, R. (2001, April). Problem gambling in New Zealand. Paper presented at the Innovation 2001 Conference, Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling, Toronto, Canada.
Griffiths, M.D. (1994). The observational analysis of marketing methods in UK amusement arcades. Society for the Study of Gambling Newsletter, 24, 17-24.
Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2003). The environmental psychology of gambling. In G. Reith (Ed.), Gambling: Who wins? Who Loses? pp. 277-292. New York: Prometheus Books.