Category Archives: Gambling
Anyone that has read my research on gambling will know that I am committed to player protection, harm-minimization, social responsibility, and responsible gambling. I was recently interviewed by Kindred Gaming for an article on their website. This blog contains the full unedited transcript of that interview.
Kindred: You have worked in the field for several years now, what are the biggest changes you have seen to the industry when it comes to responsible gambling and player protection?
MG: I’ve been working in the gambling studies field for 33 years and it was around 1996 that I first began to think about my research in terms of social responsibility issues. It was in the early 2000s that some of the more forward thinking gaming operators started to bring in socially responsible gambling features (particularly in countries such as Sweden, Norway, Canada and Australia although that might be more reflective of the clients who I had consultancy with at the time). It is over the past decade that responsible gambling has really come to the fore, and many gambling regulators around the world will not grant operating licences unless the gaming operators can demonstrate what they are doing in terms of player protection and harm-minimization. The biggest changes are arguably in the online medium because there are so many protective measures that can be initiated online such as various limit-setting features, temporary self-exclusions and cool-off periods, pop-up messaging, bespoke personalized feedback, mandatory play breaks, and the use of behavioural tracking tools.
Kindred: Focusing on your study “An Empirical Study of the Effect of Voluntary Limit-Setting on Gamblers’ Loyalty Using Behavioural Tracking Data” can you tell us a bit about the key findings, and how you view voluntary vs mandatory limits and other control tools?
MG: Kindred kindly gave us access to a dataset of 175,818 players who had placed at least one bet or gambled at least once during January 2016 to May 2017. In a nutshell we looked at active players over a one-year period and found that the percentage of active players in the first quarter of 2017 was significantly higher in the group of players who had set voluntary money limits in the first quarter of 2016 compared to players that did not. This suggests that players who set voluntary spending limits were more loyal to Kindred compared to those who do not. On the assumption that voluntary limit-setting should be part of a gaming operator’s corporate social responsibility strategy, our findings appear to underline the fact that CSR has a positive effect on business outcomes. With regards to the issue of voluntary vs. mandatory limit-setting, I’m personally in favour of it being mandatory for players to set their own time and money limits if they want to gamble. Many players don’t set their own limits but I think making it mandatory would help players in terms of managing their budgets. Some companies have default global monthly limits on how much money players can lose but that can become restrictive for those who can afford to gamble with larger amounts of money and can also be restrictive for some kinds of gambling (sports betting being the type of gambling most affected).
Kindred: How do you think operators and the academic world can work together for a safer and more sustainable gambling industry in the coming years?
MG: If both academics and the gambling industry have a shared goal of preventing and reducing problem gambling, I think there are good pragmatic reasons to work collaboratively. Personally, I think some of the best gambling research that I have done is working with gambling companies (and I would stress that I am working with gambling companies and not for them) simply because of the high quality data that gambling operators have. Obviously there are many academics who have criticized myself (and my colleagues) for such collaborations but I think the positives of working together outweighs the negatives. As long as we have complete independence to publish the results of what we find without interference from the operators, I do not have a problem in working together. My main area in this field is the evaluation of responsible gambling tools and whether the measures introduced by operators to help their players gamble more responsibly and/or can help prevent/reduce problem gambling. Over the past eight years, Dr. Michael Auer and myself have evaluated the efficacy of limit-setting, mandatory play breaks, pop-up messaging, personalized feedback, loss-limit reminders, and other gambling operator initiatives. Some of these appear to work and others less so. To move the field forward and to help maintain safe and sustainable gambling, collaborative research needs to continue. I have worked with and carried out consultancy with over 30 gambling companies around the world and am very proud of companies changing their practices and policies in relation to the findings of our research. If research findings cannot be applied to help the greater good, then what is the point of doing research if it has little practical benefit? For me, it’s a ‘win-win’ situation.
Kindred: Kindred has set an ambition to reach zero percent revenue from harmful gambling, what do you see as the key steps towards 100% enjoyable gambling?
MG: The aim is laudable but going to be difficult to achieve because harmful gambling (including problem gambling) can never be totally eliminated – although I do believe it can be kept to a minimum. I’ve always argued that problem gamblers have a relatively short customer life for gambling companies and that what sustainable companies need is long-term customer retention. Problem gamblers cannot give companies that and gambling operators need to think about lifetime customer value with decades of repeat business from those who gamble within their limits over a long period of time rather than relatively high spending from a minority of customers who may only gamble with the company for a few years. Customers will keep coming back to gambling operators if they have a product or products that customers feel is value for money and provides enjoyment – even if they lose money. There are a number of key steps that all gambling companies should take if they want sustainable and safe gambling including informed choice. These include (but are not limited to) (i) providing customers with all the information they need so that they can make an informed choice about whether they want to gamble, (ii) responsible marketing and advertising, (iii) robust age verification checks of customers, (iv) robust financial checks of customers, (v) mandatory limit-setting for customers, (v) using customer data to intervene and help high-risk gamblers via bespoke pop-up messaging and personalized messaging, (vi) partnering with gambling prevention and treatment agencies, and (vii) robust voluntary self-exclusion schemes.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Voluntary limit setting and player choice in most intense online gamblers: An empirical study of gambling behaviour. Journal of Gambling Studies, 29, 647-660.
Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). An empirical investigation of theoretical loss and gambling intensity. Journal of Gambling Studies, 30, 879-887.
Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Testing normative and self-appraisal feedback in an online slot-machine pop-up message in a real-world setting. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 339.
Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). The use of personalized behavioral feedback for problematic online gamblers: An empirical study. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1406.
Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2016). Personalized behavioral feedback for online gamblers: A real world empirical study. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1875.
Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020). The use of personalized messages on wagering behavior of Swedish online gamblers: An empirical study. Computers in Human Behavior, 110, 106402.
Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020). Predicting limit-setting behavior of gamblers using machine learning algorithms: A real world study of Norwegian gamblers using account data. International Journal of Mental Health and Addictions. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-019-00166-2
Auer, M., Hopfgartner, N. & Griffiths, M.D. (2018). The effect of loss-limit reminders on gambling behavior: A real world study of Norwegian gamblers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions,7(4), 1056-1067.
Auer, M., Hopfgartner, N. & Griffiths, M.D. (2018). The effect of loss-limit reminders on gambling behavior: A real world study of Norwegian gamblers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions,7(4), 1056-1067.
Auer, M., Hopfgartner, N. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020). The effects of voluntary deposit limit-setting on long-term online gambling behavior. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 23, 113-118.
Auer, M., Hopfgartner, N. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020). An empirical study of the effect of voluntary limit setting on gamblers’ loyalty using behavioral tracking data. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-019-00084-3.
Auer, M., Malischnig, D. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Is ‘pop-up’ messaging in online slot machine gambling effective? An empirical research note. Journal of Gambling Issues, 29, 1-10.
Ukhov, I., Bjurgert, J., Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020). Online problem gambling: A comparison of casino players and sports bettors via predictive modeling using behavioral tracking data. Journal of Gambling Studies. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-020-09964-z
Over the past few weeks there have been a number of academics who have accused me of self-plagiarism. Here, I briefly outline what I have done and have not done in relation to the allegations I have seen. I think we would all agree with the definition dictionary definition of ‘plagiarism’, i.e., “the process or practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own” (Cambridge Dictionary). Logically, based on this definition, ‘self-plagiarism’ would equate to the process or practice of using one’s own ideas and pretending that they are your own, but this is of course ludicrous.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘self-plagiarism as “the reuse of one’s own words, ideas, or artistic expression (as in an essay) from preexisting material especially without acknowledgment of their earlier use”. On the same page as this definition is a quote from the journalist Taylor Wofford who notes “Borrowing your own words is a tricky issue. Writers and publishers tend to rank self-plagiarism as a lesser offense than – what should we call it? – ‘real’ plagiarism? Still, they mostly agree it’s a no-no”.
On July 10 (2020), Dr Annie Brookman-Byrne (Deputy Editor of The Psychologist) emailed me:
“At The Psychologist, we are considering writing a piece on the concept and practice of self-plagiarism. We have seen Brendan O’Connor and others on Twitter highlighting concerns over some of your published output. Might you or your institution be interested in making a statement for us around whether you think there is actually a practice here that needs to change?”
I immediately responded to her email and said:
“I’ve not read all the comments on Twitter (and I am not going to respond to anything on Twitter as that is not the place to do it) but the alleged instances of self-plagiarism primarily revolve around my use of journal text in populist non-refereed non-journal outputs. For instance, when I write for magazines like ‘Education and Health’ (a magazine for teachers) or in newspaper or magazine articles I will use text from my journal papers…I write for many different audiences. Obviously I write and co-write refereed journal papers but I am also a freelance journalist, a prolific blogger, and write articles for the trade press (e.g., gambling and gaming magazines) as well as articles in professional publications that are not peer-reviewed. Personally I see nothing wrong in using material from my refereed papers in these other types of article as I am a prolific disseminator and want to get my ideas and thoughts to as many people and to as big an audience as possible. The alleged examples of self-plagiarism that I have seen directed towards me comprise less than 1% of my refereed journal papers. I am very proud of my publication record in many different spheres. For the record, most of those accusing me of alleged self-plagiarism are citing papers that I wrote 15 or more years ago and are making no distinction between what I have published in peer-reviewed journal papers and articles that have not been peer-reviewed and which I would describe as populist outlets”.
I make no secret of using text from my refereed papers in my blogs, newspaper and magazine articles, press releases, trade press publications, consultancy reports, and reports for third parties (e.g., calls for evidence from parliamentary committees). Those who have been using plagiarism software on my refereed papers have included results from text that is not from refereed papers.
For instance, a number of examples I saw of my alleged self-plagiarism concerned the magazine Education and Health. Education and Health is a magazine for teachers and parents and is produced by the School Health Education Unit in Exeter focusing on adolescent health and education issues. Education and Health has no copyright (i.e., no author has to sign a copyright form), is not peer-reviewed, and articles do not have a doi, contain keywords, or have an abstract). I have published in it regularly for three decades. In some of the articles I have written for Education and Health, I have taken an academic review paper (6000-11000 words) and then turned it into a dumbed down ‘pop’ article (1000-1500 words). I’ve done this a number of times over the past 30 years. An example that I saw online last week was in relation to a 2011 open access paper by Daria Kuss and myself (i.e., Kuss, D. J. & Griffiths, M. D. (2011). Online social networking and addiction: A literature review of empirical research. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8, 3528-3552).
This was an 11,000-word systematic literature review on social networking addiction. It has become one of our most cited papers (1,528 citations on Google Scholar as of this morning). After publishing this refereed paper, I then turned this into a 1500-word ‘pop’ version for Education and Health (Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Excessive online social networking: Can adolescents become addicted to Facebook? Education and Health, 29. 63-66.). In the first paragraph, the Education and Health article clearly states:
“As a consequence of the increased media attention to headlines about ‘Facebook addiction’, we recently reviewed all the scientific evidence on the topic (Kuss & Griffiths, 2011a). This article briefly summarises what we found”.
This sentence cites the paper from which all the material in the article comes from. I have not tried to hide anything or pretend that the article contains original material. The article was for teachers and parents. It contains a summary of the key things found in our refereed paper and uses text from that paper. If others want to view it as ‘self-plagiarism’ I have no problem with that. I view it as dissemination of our work to an audience outside of academia.
Any of us in British academia knows how important the Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact agenda is. My own research was rated as having 4* world-leading impact at the last REF and I’m hoping to repeat it this time. One of the ways I have gone about this is to disseminate my work to as many non-academic audiences as possible. My articles in the gambling trade press have been instrumental in the research and consultancy monies that I have generated for my university in the area of responsible gambling, player protection, and harm-minimization.
Almost all of the examples I have seen of my alleged self-plagiarism comes from this type of practice where I have turned pure academic papers into something more populist. Occasionally it has worked the other way (i.e., I’ve written a populist piece and then worked it up into an academic paper although the instances of this are much fewer). As I said above, personally I see nothing wrong in using material from my refereed papers in these other types of article as I am a prolific disseminator and want to get my ideas and thoughts to as many people and to as big an audience as possible.
Most of those accusing me of alleged self-plagiarism are citing papers that I wrote 10-15 years ago (although I did see one from 2015, again with Education and Health being the source of alleged self-plagiarism) and no-one appears to be making any distinction between what I have published in peer-reviewed journal papers and articles that have not been peer-reviewed and which I would describe as populist outlets. Plagiarism software does not indicate whether the text it finds comes from a refereed paper or non-refereed article. No-one who has accused me of self-plagiarism has contacted me personally and asked my about the source material and whether a particular piece of writing was refereed or not. There appears to be an assumption that all alleged self-plagiarised sources were from refereed papers (but they weren’t).
I should also add that there are other examples of my work that have been reproduced with permission from the publishers and/or copyright holders. For instance, the publisher IGI Global regularly republishes my work in other guises. Here’s an example I received this week from them (the words in bold were by the publisher and not me):
“I hope this message finds you well, especially during this turbulent time. It is with great pleasure that I am informing you that your contribution titled “UK-Based Police Officers’ Perceptions of, and Role in Investigating, Cyber-Harassment as a Crime,” previously published in an IGI Global publication, was carefully assessed and selected by IGI Global’s executive editorial board for inclusion as a reprinted chapter (100% completely unchanged from the original) in the recently published IGI Global research anthology titled Police Science.
IGI Global’s research anthologies, also called “Critical Explorations”, were created after an extensive survey was conducted with academic librarians, who requested to have a cost-effective and timely way to enhance their collections with the highest quality, timely research. This line of publications allows our publishing house to hand-select the highest quality research content (book chapters and journal articles of which IGI Global owns the copyright), to be reprinted in a research anthology format. This format also allows the author’s research to become more accessible and visible to a larger community of researchers around the world so that they can benefit from additional exposure (i.e. citations) for their work.
Please note that there is no intent to deceive anyone. We execute the highest level of transparency, as every single chapter that appears in these publications are labeled with a special notation indicating that it is reprinted content and listing the original source of the material. Additionally, because we are maintaining the integrity of the original published work, no changes have been made nor can be made to the chapter”.
I fully understand that my explanation for how and why I publish with different audiences will not be accepted by detractors, but that’s not why I wrote this. All I can do is give my side of how I disseminate my work and ideas to as many people as possible.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
According to Stuart Vyse in his book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, the fallibility of human reason is the greatest single source of superstitious belief. Sometimes referred to as a belief in “magic”, superstition can cover many spheres such as lucky or unlucky actions, events, numbers, and/or sayings, as well as a belief in astrology, the occult, the paranormal, or ghosts. It was reported by Colin Campbell in the British Journal of Sociology, that approximately one third of the U.K. population are superstitious. The most often reported superstitious behaviours are (i) avoiding walking under ladders, (ii) touching wood, and (iii) throwing salt over one’s shoulder.
My background is in the gambling studies field, so as far as I am concerned, no superstitions are based on facts but are based on what I would call ‘illusory correlations’ (e.g., noticing that the last three winning visits to the casino were all when you wore a particular item of clothing or it was on a particular day of the week). While the observation may be fact-based (i.e., that you did indeed wear a particular piece of clothing), the relationship is spurious.
Superstition can cover many spheres such as lucky or unlucky actions, events, numbers, and/or sayings. A working definition within our Western society could be a belief that a given action can bring good luck or bad luck when there are no rational or generally acceptable grounds for such a belief. In short, the fundamental feature underlying superstitions is that they have no rational underpinnings.
There is also a stereotypical view that there are certain groups within society who tend to hold more superstitious beliefs than what may be considered the norm. These include those involved with sport, the acting profession, miners, fishermen, and gamblers – many of whom will have superstitions based on things that have personally happened to them or to those they know well. Again, these may well be fact-based but the associations they have experienced will again be illusory and spurious. Most individuals are basically rational and do not really believe in the effects of superstition. However, in times of uncertainty, stress, or perceived helplessness, they may seek to regain personal control over events by means of superstitious belief.
One explanation for how we learn these superstitious beliefs has been suggested by the psychologist B.F. Skinner and his research with pigeons. He noted in a 1948 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, that while waiting to be fed, pigeons adopted some peculiar behaviours. The birds appeared to see a causal relationship between receiving the food and their own preceding behaviour. However, it was merely coincidental conditioning. There are many analogies in the human world – particularly among gamblers. For instance, if a gambler blows on the dice during a game of craps and subsequently wins, the superstitious belief is reinforced through the reward of winning. Another explanation is that as children we are socialized into believing in magic and superstitious beliefs. Although many of these beliefs dissipate over time, children also learn by watching and modelling their behaviour on that of others. Therefore, if their parents or peers touch wood, carry lucky charms, and do not walk under ladders, then children are more likely to imitate that behaviour, and some of these beliefs may be carried forward to later life.
In a paper published in Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, Peter Darke and Jonathan Freedman (1997) suggested that lucky events are, by definition, determined entirely by chance. However, they go on to imply that, although most people would agree with this statement on an intellectual level, many do not appear to behave inaccordance with this belief. In his book Paradoxes of Gambling Behaviour, Willem Wagenaar (1988) proposed that in the absence of a known cause we tend to attribute events to abstract causes like luck and chance. He goes on to differentiate between luck and chance and suggests that luck is more related to an unexpected positive result whereas chance is related to surprising coincidences.
Bernard Weiner, in his book An Attributional Theory of Motivation and Emotion, suggests that luck may be thought of as the property of a person, whereas chance is thought to be concerned with unpredictability. Gamblers appear to exhibit a belief that they have control over their own luck. They may knock on wood to avoid bad luck or carry an object such as a rabbit’s foot for good luck. Ellen Langer argued in her book The Psychology of Control that a belief in luck and superstition cannot only account for causal explanations when playing games of chance, but may also provide the desired element of personal control.
In my own research (with Carolyn Bingham) into superstition among bingo players published in the Journal of Gambling Issues, it was clear that a large percentage of bingo players we surveyed reported beliefs in luck and superstition. However, the findings were varied, with a far greater percentage of players reporting everyday superstitious beliefs rather than beliefs concerned with bingo. Whether or not players genuinely believed they had control over luck is unknown. Having superstitious beliefs may be simply part of the thrill of playing.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Campbell, C. (1996). Half-belief and the paradox of ritual instrumental activism: A theory of modern superstition. British Journal of Sociology, 47(1), 151–166.
Darke, P. R., & Freedman, J. L. (1997). Lucky events and beliefs in luck: Paradoxical effects on confidence and risk-taking. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 378–388.
Griffiths, M.D. & Bingham, C. (2005). A study of superstitious beliefs among bingo players. Journal of Gambling Issues, 13. Located at: http://jgi.camh.net/index.php/jgi/article/view/3680/3640
Langer, E. J. (1983). The psychology of control. London: Sage.
Skinner, B. F. (1948). “Superstition” in the pigeon. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38, 168–172.
Thalbourne, M.A. (1997). Paranormal belief and superstition: How large is the association? Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 91, 221–226.
Vyse, S. A. (1997). Believing in magic: The psychology of superstition. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wagenaar, W. A. (1988). Paradoxes of gambling behaviour. London: Erlbaum.
Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag
This Christmas I managed to do a lot of book reading (most of it being David Bowie-related) and my favourite read was John O’Connell’s Bowie’s Books: The Hundred Literary Heroes Who Changed His Life (which If I’m nit-picking should actually be the 98 heroes because George Orwell and Anthony Burgess make two appearances each on the list), followed by Will Brooker’s Why Bowie Matters (a book I wish I had wrote because it was written by a Professor of Film and Cultural Studies and is a loose account of an academic spending a whole year trying to live like David Bowie as a piece of research). I also love lists so I thought I’d kick off the New Year with a list of the books that have shaped my academic life. This list was first published by The Psychologist (in 2018) but this blog may give my list a wider readership.
One of the most influential books on my whole career is Jim Orford’s seminal book Excessive Appetites that explored many different behavioural addictions including gambling, sex, and eating (i.e., addictions that don’t involve the ingestion of psychoactive substances). Jim Orford’s books are always worth a read and he writes in an engaging style that I have always admired. It was by chance that I did my PhD at the University of Exeter (1987-1990) where Orford was working at the time and since 2005 we have published many co-authored papers together. While we can agree to disagree on some aspects of how and why people become addicted, Jim will continue to be remembered as a pioneer in the field of behavioural addiction.
The Psychology of Gambling (by Michael Walker)
If there’s one book I’d wish I had written myself, it is this one. I did my PhD on slot machine addiction in adolescence but this book was published shortly after I’d finished and beautifully summarises all the main theories and perspectives on gambling psychology. My PhD would have been a whole lot easier if this book had been published when I first started my research career! I got to know Michael quite well before his untimely death in December 2009 (and he was external PhD examiner to some of my PhD students), and one of my enduring images of him was walking around at gambling conferences with his book clutched in his hand. Some of my colleagues found that a little strange but if I’d have written a book that good I’d have it with me at such events all the time!
I reviewed this book for the British Journal of Clinical Psychology (BJCP) back in the early 1990s and concluded by saying that it is a book that should be read by all therapists because its content can be applied to nearly all clinical situations and not just to those individuals with addictive behaviour problems. Motivational interviewing (MI) borrows strategies from cognitive therapy, client-centred counselling, systems theory, and the social psychology of persuasion, and the underlying theme of the book is the issue of ambivalence, and how the therapist can use MI to resolve it and allow the client to build commitment and reach a decision to change. In my most recent research I’ve used the basic tenets of MI in designing personalised messages to give to gamblers while they are gambling online in real time. I’ve now come to the conclusion 25 years after writing my BJCP review that anyone interested in enabling behavioural change should apply the tenets in this book to their work.
Even though this book was published back in 1992, I still tell my current students that this is a ‘must read’ book. Davies takes a much researched area of social psychology (i.e., attribution theory) and applies it to addiction. The basic message of the book is that people take drugs because they want to and not because they are physiologically addicted. The whole book is written in a non-technical manner and is highly readable and thought provoking. I often use Davies’ term ‘functional attribution’ from this book in my teaching and writings on sex addiction, and apply it to celebrities who use the excuse of ‘sex addiction’ to justify their infidelities.
Anyone that reads my blog will know that when it comes to the more bizarre side of sexual activity, my ‘go to’ book is Dr. Aggrawal’s book on unusual sexual practices. Others in the sexology field often look down their noses at this book but it is both enjoyable and informative and the kind of book that once you start reading you find it hard to put down again. A lot of academic books on sexual behaviour can be boring and/or impenetrable but this one is the polar opposite. The book also kick-started some of my own recently published research on sexual fetishes and paraphilias.
During my PhD, I remember watching the 1988 adaptation of David Lodge’s novel Small World. At the time, I had never heard of David Lodge but I went out and bought the book and was totally hooked. I then discovered that Small World was the second part of a ‘campus trilogy’ (preceded by Changing Places and followed by Nice Work). Since then I have bought every novel Lodge has ever published and he’s my favourite fiction writer (and I’ve bought and read some of his academic books on literary criticism). I love campus novels and through Lodge and devoured other university-based novels (including Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man, Howard Jacobson’s Coming from Behind, and Ann Oakley’s The Men’s Room among my favourites).
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Brooker, W. (2019) Why Bowie Matters. London: William Collins.
Davies J. B. (1992). The Myth of Addiction. Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers.
Griffiths, M.D. (2018). My shelfie. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 31, 70.
Lodge, D. (1984). Small World. London: Secker & Warburg.
Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (1991). Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People to Change Addictive Behavior. New York: Guilford Press.
O’Connell, J. (2019). Bowie’s Books: The Hundred Literary Heroes Who Changed His Life. London: Bloomsbury.
Orford, J. (2001). Excessive Appetites: A Psychological View of the Addictions. Chichester: Wiley.
Earlier this week, I was interviewed by the BBC about whether organisations should help individuals who have gambling problems and whether they should have a ‘gambling at work’ policy. Most of us work in organisations that have policies on behaviours such as drinking alcohol and cigarette smoking. However, very few companies have a ‘gambling at work’ policy. One problem gambler in a position of financial trust can bring down a whole organisation – Nick Leeson being a case in point when he single-handedly brought down Barings Bank). Leeson’s (albeit somewhat extreme) antics demonstrate that organisations need to acknowledge that gambling with company money can be disastrous for the company if things go horribly wrong. While no company expects an employee gambling to bring about their collapse, Leeson’s case does at least highlight gambling as an issue that companies ought to think about in terms of risk assessment.
Gambling is a popular leisure activity and national UK surveys into gambling participation show that around two-thirds of adults’ gamble annually and that problem gambling affects approximately 0.5% of the British population (although the prevalence rates for adolescents can be three to four rimes higher). There are a number of socio-demographic factors associated with problem gambling. These included being male, having a parent who was or who has been a problem gambler, being single, and having a low income. Other research shows that those who experience unemployment, poor health, housing, and low educational qualifications have significantly higher rates of problem gambling than the general population.
It is clear that the social and health costs of problem gambling can be large on both an individual and societal level. Personal costs can include irritability, extreme moodiness, problems with personal relationships (including divorce), absenteeism from work, family neglect, and bankruptcy. There can also be adverse health consequences for both the problem gambler and their partner including depression, insomnia, intestinal disorders, migraines, and other stress-related disorders.
For most people, gambling is not a serious problem and in some cases may even be of benefit in team building and/or creating a collegiate atmosphere in the workplace (e.g., National Lottery syndicates, office sweepstakes). However, for those whose gambling starts to become more of a problem, it can affect both the organisation and other work colleagues. Typically problem gambling at work can lead to many negative “warning signs” such as misuse of time, mysterious disappearances, long lunches, late to work, leaving early from work, unusual vacation patterns, unexplained sick leave, internet and telephone misuse, etc. However, new forms of gambling, such as gambling via the internet or smartphones at work, means that many of these warning signs are unlikely to be picked up. However, just because problem gambling is difficult to spot does not mean that managers should not include it in risk assessments and/or planning procedures. Listed below are some practical steps that can be taken to help minimise the potential problem.
- Take the issue of gambling seriously. Gambling (in all its many forms) has not been viewed as an occupational issue at any serious level. Managers, in conjunction with Human Resources Departments need to ensure they are aware of the issue and the potential risks it can bring to both their employees and the whole organisation. They also need to be aware that for employees who deal with finances, the consequences for the company should that person be a problem gambler can be very great.
- Raise awareness of gambling issues at work. This can be done through e-mail circulation, leaflets, and posters on general notice boards. Most countries (including the UK) have national and /or local gambling agencies that can supply useful educational literature (including posters). Telephone numbers for these organisations can usually be found in most telephone directories.
- Ask employees to be vigilant. Problem gambling at work can have serious repercussions not only for the individual but also for those employees who befriend a problem gambler, and the organisation itself. Fellow staff members need to know the signs and symptoms of problem gambling. Employee behaviours such as asking to borrow money all the time might be indicative of a gambling problem.
- Give employees access to diagnostic gambling checklists. Make sure that any literature or poster within the workplace includes a self-diagnostic checklist so that employees can check themselves to see if they might have (or be developing) a gambling problem.
- Check internet “bookmarks” of staff. In some jurisdictions across the world, employers can legally access the e-mails and internet content of their employees. One of the easiest checks is to simply look at an employee’s list of “bookmarked” websites. If they are gambling on the internet regularly, internet gambling sites are almost certainly likely to be bookmarked.
- Develop a “Gambling at Work” policy. As mentioned at the start of this blog, many organisations have policies for behaviours such as smoking or drinking alcohol in the workplace. Employers should develop their own gambling policies by liaison between Human Resource Services and local gambling agencies. A risk assessment policy in relation to gambling would also be helpful.
- Give support to identified problem gamblers. Most large organisations have counselling services and other forms of support for employees who find themselves in difficulties. Problem gambling needs to be treated sympathetically (like other more bona fide addictions such as alcoholism). Employee support services must also be educated about the potential problems of workplace gambling.
Problem gambling can clearly be a hidden activity and the growing availability of internet gambling and gambling via smartphone or tablets is making it easier to gamble from the workplace. Thankfully, it would appear that for most people, gambling is not a serious problem. For those whose gambling starts to become more of a problem, it can affect both the organisation and other work colleagues (and in extreme cases cause major problems for the company as a whole). Managers clearly need to have their awareness of this issue raised, and once this has happened, they need to raise awareness of the issue among the work force. Gambling is a social issue, a health issue and an occupational issue. Although not high on the list for most employers, the issues highlighted here suggest that it should at least be on the list somewhere.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Calado, F., Alexandre, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2017). Prevalence of adolescent problem gambling: A systematic review of recent research. Journal of Gambling Studies, 33, 397-424.
Calado, F. & Griffiths, M.D. (2016). Problem gambling worldwide: An update of empirical research (2000-2015). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5, 592–613.
Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Internet gambling in the workplace. In M. Anandarajan & C. Simmers (Eds.). Managing Web Usage in the Workplace: A Social, Ethical and Legal Perspective. pp. 148-167. Hershey, Pennsylvania: Idea Publishing.
Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Occupational health issues concerning Internet use in the workplace. Work and Stress, 16, 283-287.
Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Betting your life on it: Problem gambling has clear health related consequences. British Medical Journal, 329, 1055-1056.
Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Internet gambling in the workplace. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21, 658-670.
Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Internet abuse and internet addiction in the workplace. Journal of Worplace Learning, 7, 463-472.
Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The hidden addiction: Gambling in the workplace. Counselling at Work, 70, 20-23.
A few days ago, I published a short paper with Dr. Michael Auer examining the concept of ‘fishing addiction’ and the similarities with gambling addiction in the Archives of Behavioral Addiction. Fishing and gambling are two activities that on the surface do not appear to have much in common with each other. For many people, they are both simply leisure activities and this is where the similarities stop.
So in what ways are fishing and gambling similar? In the broadest of senses, gambling and fishing are not too dissimilar. As Dr. Gary Smith and his colleagues noted in a 2003 report, the word ‘gambling’ in day-to-day language has broad currency and can describe a number of activities such as “farming, fishing, searching for oil, marriage or even crossing a busy street”. More specifically, in a 2011 chapter on stress among fisherman, Dr. Richard Pollnac and colleagues noted that “a fisher is basically gambling every time he/she goes out fishing” and that like gambling “production per fishing trip is highly variable and relatively unpredictable”. An earlier 2008 paper by Pollnac and John Poggie highlighted that marine fishing as an occupation is of a relative risky nature and state that it attracts and holds individuals manifesting an active, adventurous, aggressive and courageous personality – attributes that arguably apply to some types of competitive gamblers, such as poker players.
According to a 2013 online article by Dr. Per Binde (2013), who describes himself as a gambling researcher that enjoys fishing in his spare time, gambling and fishing have many similarities “especially if you consider bait casting (spinning) in relation to repetitive forms of gambling, such as slot machines”. A 2013 online article by Whitney James (2013) has also made a similar observation that “pulling a penny slot is like casting your line. It doesn’t take a lot of effort but the payout is sometimes sweet”. In fact, both Binde and James have noted a number of distinct similarities and the list below combines these along with some of our own observations:
- In both activities, the participant repeats the same behaviour over and over again in the hope that they will attain something of material value.
- Both activities lead to mood modifying experiences and can be both relaxing and exciting.
- Both activities can result in the person forgetting about time and engaging in the activity for much longer than the person originally intended (because of the escape-like qualities of engaging in the activity).
- Both activities involve ‘near misses’ that reinforce the behaviour (or as Dr. Binde says “one reel symbol slightly out of place for a jackpot; bites and nibbles of fish that does not get hooked”).
- Success in either activity may be a combination of skill and chance, and winning or catching a fish give the individuals concerned a sense of achievement and mastery. Furthermore, the person engaging in these activities may not be able to differentiate between what was skill and what was chance (or as Dr. Binde says: “was my choice of bait successful or was it just luck that I caught a big fish?”).
- In both activities, the ‘availability bias’ comes into play. More specifically, the few big successes (i.e., catching a really big fish or winning a large amount of money) are highly memorable while all the many other occasions when the person lost all their money or caught nothing are easily forgotten.
- In both activities, superstitious rituals are commonplace (wearing a ‘lucky’ cap, spitting on the lure, etc.). As I noted in a 2005 paper I co-wrote with Carolyn Bingham in the Journal of Gambling Issues, there are certain groups within society who tend to hold more superstitious beliefs than what may be considered the norm including sportsmen, actors, miners, fishermen, and gamblers.
- In both activities, when things are not going right (i.e., not winning, not catching any fish), the person then tries the same thing somewhere else (a gambler changes table or slot machines, or goes to a new gaming venue; a fisherman changes his bait or tries another place in the river or a new river entirely).
- In both activities, one win or one fish caught is never enough.
- Both activities are potentially addictive (“ask either addict’s wife and they will confirm” said Whitney James).
- In both activities, families forgive the person if they bring something home with them (i.e., winnings or fresh fish).
- Finally, (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) both activities (according to Whitney James) “are better with a drink in hand”.
Another similarity is that both activities can prove an expensive pastime. While this could be said comparing any two leisure activities, in a 2004 qualitative interview study of seven male high frequency betting shop gamblers published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory, Dr. Tom Ricketts and Ann Macaskill, the gamblers justified the amount spent on gambling by contrasting the amount they spent on other leisure pursuits like fishing. As one gambler said: “Like some people go fishing…and that costs a lot more than what it does with gambling. So that’s the way I see it, really, you pay for your hobbies”.
Another qualitative interview study of seven male online poker players by myself and Dr. Adrian Parke in a 2012 issue of Addiction Research and Theory highlighted that some of the players use fishing analogies to describe their card play. It emerged clearly from one interview that a player could profit in both offline and online forms of gambling by manipulating various forms of information technology. As the authors noted:
“The significance of this belief was moderated in the sense that although participants professed that such profitable control was indeed possible, they indicated that there were also negative consequences of gambling in a controlled and profitable manner. This profitable, yet restricted form of gambling was described by one participant as ‘trawling’, highlighting the demanding and onerous nature of the activity… The use of the term ‘trawling’ for such forms of controlled gambling conveys an impression that is similar to commercial sea fishing (i.e. not only is it an arduous task but also several external factors influence profitability such as luck)”.
Dr. Binde also claimed that it is unsurprising that individuals that want to cease their excessive gambling often find sport fishing a suitable ‘substitution’ leisure activity. He then goes on to argue that fisherman only risk losing time rather than money but then adds:
“Sport fishing gear may cost a bit and fishermen may get the idea that better gear would make fishing more successful. There are people, however, who have problems controlling the extent of their sport fishing and who perceive it as a kind of addiction”.
A 2009 online article by R. Pendleton draws similarities between fishing tournaments in Hawaii and poker tournaments. He cites Dr. Marc Miller, a cultural anthropologist and professor at the University of Washington, who theorized that there are four phases of tournament fishing that correspond to those found in gambling.
“The first phase is ‘squaring off’, which begins when the anglers board their boat, choose their tackle and the area they intend to fish, and go steaming off to the grounds. It is rather like the gambler with a handful of chips checking out the gaming tables, he noted, but it abruptly ends when the lines hit the water. The second is the determination phase, Miller said. Like the gambler’s blackjack table, this is where the action is. The angler is fishing and fate is in charge. It only ends when the ‘stop fishing’ signal is given. The angler enters the third phase – ‘the disclosure’ – when the fishing is over. Again like the gambler’s hand of cards, it is time for the fisherman to put his catch up for weighing and judging – to finally show what he’s got. Finally comes the ‘settlement phase’ of tournament fishing when the angler’s score is posted and the results are compared with the other fishermen in the contest, rather like when the gambler must settle up with the dealer”.
As far as I am aware, there has never been a study of ‘fishing addiction’ in the psychological literature although there are a few references to it and/or compulsive fishing. Similar to Whitney James’ observation above about wives knowing if their husbands are addicted to fishing or gambling, the 2008 paper by Pollnac and Poggie noted that:
“A commercial crabber from Alaska said, ‘As any fisherman’s wife will tell you, fishing is an addiction. And for commercial fishermen, consider it a gambling addiction’ (Arnold 2006). This is an insightful observation, fishing is like an addiction, and most fishermen would do anything to avoid the potentially painful withdrawal symptoms”.
Bill Glasser, author of the 1976 book Positive Addiction, noted that fishing was one of many ‘positive addictions’ in a later (2012) paper on the topic (in the Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy). More specifically, he claimed that he had heard numerous stories from many different individuals claiming they were ‘positively addicted “to a variety of activities such as swimming, hiking, bike riding, yoga, Zen, knitting, crocheting, hunting, fishing, skiing, rowing, playing a musical instrument, singing, dancing, and many more”. Glasser argued that activities such as jogging and transcendental meditation were positive addictions and were the kinds of activity that could be deliberately cultivated to wean addicts away from more harmful and sinister preoccupations. He also asserted that positive addictions must be new rewarding activities that produce increased feelings of self-efficacy.
Glasser’s (1976) own criteria for positive addictions are that the activities must (i) be non-competitive and needing about an hour a day, (ii) be easy, so no mental effort is required, (iii) be easy to be done alone, not dependent on people, (iv) be believed to be having some value (physical, mental, spiritual), (v) be believed that if persisted in, some improvement will result, and (iv) involve no self-criticism. Although ‘fishing addiction’ arguably meets these criteria, I argued in a 1996 paper in the Journal of Workplace Learning that Glasser’s criteria have little to with accepted criteria for addictive behaviour such as salience, mood modification, tolerance, conflict, withdrawal, loss of control, and relapse. Therefore, although Glasser believes that addiction to fishing is a positive addiction, I would argue that ‘fishing addiction’ using Glasser’s criteria is not really an addiction.
In an online article on ‘The psychology of fishing addiction’ (In The Bite, 2014), addiction psychotherapist Alexandria Stark asserted that although fishing addiction was not recognized in the psychiatric community, the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria of Gambling Disorder in the DSM-5 could be adapted to screen for whether someone is a fishing addict. Additionally, a 2007 paper in the journal Parkinsonism and Related Disorders by Dr. Andrew McKeon and colleagues reported seven case studies of “unusual compulsive behaviors” following treatment for Parkinson’s disease with dopamine agonist therapy. One of the seven cases was a 48-year-old man who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 43 years and was taking daily doses of levodopa [300mg], ropinirole [24mg] and selegeline [5mg]. It was reported that the man suddenly “developed an intense interest and fascination with fishing” even though he had little prior interest in the activity. His wife reported that her husband was fishing incessantly for day after day, and that even though he caught nothing his interest in fishing did not diminish.
Pollnac and Poggie who have carried out lots of research into professional fisherman have speculated that professional fisherman and gamblers may have similar personality types and similar biological pre-dispositions. They speculated that if professional fisherman had not had gone into the fishing profession, they may have ended up as drug addicts or gambling addicts. More specifically, they noted that:
“The possible existence of a genetic component related to an active, adventurous, aggressive, and courageous personality type should not be surprising. Fishermen manifesting this personality type are more successful as would be the hunters and gatherers who provided sustenance for human populations through most of the time humans have been on earth. This genetic component, which would have been advantageous for early humans, served us well, but when it was no longer needed, its frequency in human populations probably started a slow decline. It still exists, however, and those lucky (or unfortunate) to have it have to find other outlets for their need for novelty and adventure – risky sports and high stakes gambling, recreational hunting, marine sport fishing, and risky jobs like firefighting, policing, futures trading in the stock market, etc. Those who do not find other outlets or who may be misguided turn to self destructive behavior such as addictive gambling, crime (high risk) and substance abuse (LeGrand et al. 2005). Fortunately for fishermen, the occupation of fishing, a risky occupation, can provide a certain level of adventure accompanied by various risks and hence, serve as a socially acceptable outlet for their need for action and adventure while increasing their levels of satisfaction and happiness”.
In our just published paper, we visited various online discussion forums dedicated to fishing (e.g., Big Fish Tackle [www.bigfishtackle.com] and Angling Addicts [http://www.anglingaddicts.co.uk]) and located a number of fishermen that claimed their fishing was an addiction and/or had addiction-like properties (a selection of self-reports that we found are published in the paper). We argued that these self-reports have existential value and provide informal data that could be more formally investigated in future studies. In one of our cases, the individual was totally preoccupied by fishing even though he was not fishing every day (in fact, twice a week maximum). He thought about fishing all the time and it appeared to be the single most important thing in his life. If he couldn’t actually fish he was watching online fishing videos, watching fishing television programmes, playing fishing videogames, or on online fishing forums. Here, the individual appeared to display cross-tolerance (i.e., when unable to fish he engaged in other fish-related activities such as playing a fishing videogame). The only activity that made him want to get out of bed was fishing. The description of his behaviour is arguably one of the best working definitions of salience that you could find. For want of a better word, he was totally obsessed with fishing.
In another case, fishing was actually described by the individual as an addiction and that his wife made him cut back on his fishing. The way he overcame his urge to fish was to get a job that involved fishing which not only met his fishing needs but resolved the conflict in his relationship as his wife no longer cared that he was fishing every day when it became his full-time job. In another case, the individual described withdrawal symptoms if he was unable to fish and that he got “the shakes” if he was unable to fish, similar to an alcoholic who gets the shakes (i.e., delirium tremens) when unable to drink. Another case specifically described fishing in extreme cases as an addiction and something that has been with him (and will be with him) for life.
A further case described fishing as an addiction and how he first got involved with fishing (i.e., being in Florida near water meant that fishing excursions were readily and easily available). He provided an example of relapse in that he had been able to give up fishing for a period in his life (because there was no opportunity for his to fish), only for it to return at a later point. Another case likened fishing to drug use and that once someone had tried fishing they have to go back for more. For want of a better word they become ‘hooked’ (no pun intended but another linguistic example of the association between fishing and addiction).
One individual described how he was given an ultimatum by his wife, and as a consequence, he chose fishing over the relationship. Obviously his fishing was causing relationship problems and when it came to make a decision, he decided he loved fishing more than his wife and can now fish whenever he wants without his ex-wife interfering or passing negative comment on his desire to fish. By removing his wife from his day-to-day activity, the fishing presumably became a non-problematic behaviour. Another individual described fishing as an activity that has become constant in his life and was not just a phase that they are going through.
In a nutshell, our paper attempted to examine whether – in extreme cases – fishing could be characterised as an addiction, and also attempted to argue that there are many commonalities between excessive fishing and another behavioural addiction (i.e., gambling addiction). It does appear to have addiction-like properties and that some fishers describe their fixation on fishing as an addiction akin to problematic drug use and/or gambling. However, our paper didn’t argue that fishing addiction exists, just that some people (including fishers themselves) conceptualise their excessive behaviour as an addiction and that a few scholars have asserted that in extreme cases, fishing may be a behaviour that can be potentially addictive.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Arnold, C. 2006. A crabbers’ life. National Fisherman 87, 6, 22-25.
Binde, P. (2013). Fishing and gambling. The Anthropology of Gambling, August 31. Retrieved August 1, 2016, from: http://ongambling.org/fishing-and-gambling (last accessed May 15, 2015)
Glasser, W. (1976), Positive Addictions. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Glasser, W. (2012). Promoting client strength through positive addiction. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 11(4), 173-175.
Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Behavioural addictions: An issue for everybody? Journal of Workplace Learning, 8(3), 19-25.
Griffiths, M.D. (2005). A ‘components’ model of addiction within a biopsychosocial framework. Journal of Substance Use, 10, 191-197.
Griffiths, M.D. & Auer, M. (2019). Becoming hooked? Angling, gambling, and ‘fishing addiction’. Archives of Behavioral Addiction, 1(1), .
Griffiths, M.D. & Bingham, C. (2005). A study of superstitious beliefs among bingo players. Journal of Gambling Issues, 13. Retrieved August 1, 2016, from http://jgi.camh.net/doi/full/10.4309/jgi.2005.13.7 (last accessed May 15, 2015)
In The Bite (2014). The psychology of fishing addiction. July 15. Retrieved August 1, 2016, from: http://www.inthebite.com/2014/07/the-psychology-of-fishing-addiction/ (last accessed May 15, 2015)
James, W. (2013). 8 reasons fishing is like gambling. Handwritten [Personal Blog]. Retrieved August 1, 2016, from http://whitneyljames.tumblr.com/post/52146316443/8-reasons-fishing-is-like-gambling (last accessed May 15, 2015)
McKeon, A., Josephs, K. A., Klos, K. J., Hecksel, K., Bower, J. H., Michael Bostwick, J., & Eric Ahlskog, J. (2007). Unusual compulsive behaviors primarily related to dopamine agonist therapy in Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy. Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, 13(8), 516-519.
Parke, A., & Griffiths, M. (2012). Beyond illusion of control: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of gambling in the context of information technology. Addiction Research and Theory, 20(3), 250-260
Pendleton, R. (2009). Fishing is Hawaii’s legalized gambling. The Examiner, April 29. Retrieved August 1, 2016, from http://www.examiner.com/article/fishing-is-hawaii-s-legalized-gambling
Pollnac, R. B., Monnereau, I., Poggie, J. J., Ruiz, V., & Westwood, A. D. (2011). Stress and the occupation of fishing. In Langan-Fox, J. & Cooper, C.L. Handbook of Stress in the Occupations, 309-321. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Pollnac, R. B., & Poggie, J. J. (2008). Happiness, well-being, and psychocultural adaptation to the stresses associated with marine fishing. Human Ecology Review, 15(2), 194
Prattis, J. I. (1973). Gambling, fishing and innovation – a cross situational study of decision making. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 14(1-2), 76-88.
Ricketts, T., & Macaskill, A. (2004). Differentiating normal and problem gambling: A grounded theory approach. Addiction Research & Theory, 12(1), 77-87.
Smith, G. J., Wynne, H. J., & Hartnagel, T. F. (2003). Examining police records to assess gambling impacts: A study of gambling-related crime in the City of Edmonton. Edmonton: Alberta Gaming Research Institute