NAGS 28th Annual Conference
‘New perspectives and practice: Insights from gamblers, treatment-providers, government, industry, community services, and academia’
Our conference this year ran from Wednesday 21 November to Friday 23 November 2018.
Michael J. A. Wohl
Loyalty Programs in the Gambling Industry:
Potentials for Harm and Possibilities for Harm-Minimization
The field of gambling studies has been remarkably silent on the impact of
loyalty programs in the gambling industry. In this keynote address, I review the
scant empirical literature with an aim to stimulate discussion and research
about the impact of loyalty program membership on players. Preliminary
evidence suggests that disordered gamblers are more apt to join a loyalty
program and be disproportionately rewarded (due to the amount of money they spend gambling)
relative to recreational and at-risk gamblers. As such, loyalty programs in the gambling industry
may generate harms in vulnerable individuals. However, loyalty programs may also be well
positioned to facilitate harm-minimisation by promoting behavioral tracking that is collected on
every member—information that can be provided to players to advance responsible gambling.
Additionally, members could be rewarded for engagement with responsible gambling tools,
which may increase the currently low rate of tool use. That said, structuring loyalty programs to
reward the use of responsible gambling instruments with time on device or even non-monetary
prizes may be incompatible with harm-minimisation efforts. This address concludes with a call for
empirical research on the antecedents and consequences of loyalty program membership to better
triangulate on the potential pitfall and benefits loyalty programs in the gambling industry may have
Dr. Michael Wohl (Ph.D. Univ. of Alberta, 2003) is a Professor of Psychology at Carleton University. Work in his Carleton University Gambling Laboratory focuses on, among other things, factors that predict disordered gambling (e.g., persistent play in the face of continued loss), facilitators of responsible gambling (e.g., monetary limit setting and adherence), and means to overcome barriers to behaviour change. Recently, members of his laboratory have turned their attention to the potential pitfalls and benefits of loyalty program membership.
Dr. Wohl has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and is the receipt of Carleton’s Research Achievement Award, the Carleton University Teaching Excellence Award, and the Faculty Graduate Mentoring Award. Recently, he was named a Fellow of the American Psychological Society and Society for Personality and Social Psychology. To facilitate his gambling research, Wohl has received funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Problem Gambling Researcher Centre (now Gambling Research Exchange Ontario), National Center for Responsible Gambling, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and Manitoba Gambling Research Program.
Breaking new ground in interventions to reduce gambling harm
The evidence base for interventions to reduce gambling harm is limited and confounded by generally low quality methodological standards. Psychological interventions with the strongest evidence base for the treatment of problem gambling include cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI)/motivational enhancement therapies (MET). These interventions have been successfully delivered as less intensive treatment options, including brief interventions, online interventions, and self-directed interventions. Recent evidence also suggests that there are considerable beneficial effects from the administration of some pharmacological interventions, such as opioid antagonists and mood stabilisers, compared to placebo conditions. To date, however, there is little empirical data to guide the selection of one of these interventions over another, with few differences in outcome between them. Although there is some preliminary evidence suggestive of some possible benefits from other psychological, self-directed, and pharmacological interventions, there are few too studies on which to evaluate these therapies. We now find ourselves in a new era of clinical science, intervention development, and trial design. This keynote presentation will describe the current evidence base for gambling interventions and explore the potential application of cutting edge of evidence-based practice and science from related fields, including screening and brief interventions, third wave interventions, mobile interventions such as just-in-time adaptive interventions, transdiagnostic interventions, and neurocognitive interventions.
Nicki Dowling is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Deakin University, with an honorary position as Principal Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She is a registered clinical psychologist and has considerable experience as face-to-face gambling counsellor in the Victorian Gamblers Help services. She conducts clinically-oriented gambling research, with expertise in the identification, prevention, and treatment of gambling-related harm for gamblers and their affected others.