Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 1013–1031 | Cite as

Differential Effects of Formal and Informal Gambling on Symptoms of Problem Gambling During Voluntary Self-Exclusion

  • Amanda V. McCormickEmail author
  • Irwin M. Cohen
  • Garth Davies
Original Paper


Voluntary self-exclusion (VSE) programs enable problem gamblers to engage in a break from casino-based gambling. The current study analyzed the effects of a VSE program in British Columbia, Canada on problem gambling symptoms and the comparative reductions in problem gambling symptoms when participants abstained from gambling, continued to participate in non-casino based gambling, or attempted to violate their exclusion contract. 269 participants completed two telephone interviews over a 6-month period. Participants were administered the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). Substantial reductions in PGSI scores were observed after 6 months. Program violators had significantly smaller PGSI Difference Scores by Time 2 compared to those who continued to gamble outside of the casino and those who completely abstained from all gambling. There were no significant differences between those who gambled informally and those who abstained. A multiple regression identified that while access to counselling and length of enrollment also contributed to the reduction in PGSI scores, violation attempts were most strongly associated with smaller reductions in symptoms of problem gambling. These results imply that some gamblers can successfully engage in non-casino based forms of gambling and still experience reductions in symptoms of problem gambling. Future analyses will explore characteristics associated with group membership that may help to identify which participants can successfully engage in non-casino based gambling without re-triggering symptoms of problem gambling.


Problem gambling Gambling disorder Voluntary self-exclusion Controlled gambling 



The larger research project from which this data was drawn was funded by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Human and Animal Rights

This research involved human participants and, therefore, ethical approval was sought from and received by the University’s Human Research Ethics Board.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatry Association.Google Scholar
  2. American Psychiatry Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatry Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blaszczynski, A., Ladouceur, R., & Nower, L. (2007). Self-exclusion: A proposed gateway to treatment model. International Gambling Studies, 7(1), 59–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen, I. M., McCormick, A. V., & Corrado, R. R. (2011). BCLC’s voluntary self-exclusion program: Perceptions and experiences of a sample of program participants. Abbotsford, BC: BC Centre for Social Responsibility.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, I. M., McCormick, A. V., & Davies, G. (2017). British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s voluntary self-exclusion program from the perspectives and experiences of program participants. Abbotsford, BC: Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research, University of the Fraser Valley.Google Scholar
  6. Cox, B. J., Yu, N., Afifi, T. O., & Ladouceur, R. (2005). A national survey of gambling problems in Canada. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry—Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie, 50(7), 213–217.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cunningham, J. A. (2005). Little use of treatment among problem gamblers. Psychiatric Services, 56(Aug), 1024–1025. Scholar
  8. Currie, S. R., Hodgins, D. C., & Casey, D. M. (2013). Validity of the Problem Gambling Severity Index interpretive categories. Journal of Gambling Studies, 29, 311–327. Scholar
  9. Daughters, S., Lejuez, C. W., Lesieur, H. R., Strong, D. R., & Zvolensky, M. J. (2003). Towards a better understanding of gambling treatment failure: Implications of translational research. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 573–586. Scholar
  10. Doiron, J. P., & Nicki, R. M. (2001). Epidemiology of problem gambling in Prince Edward Island: A Canadian microcosm? Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 46, 413–417.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Dowling, N., Smith, D., & Thomas, T. (2009). A preliminary investigation of abstinence and controlled gambling as self-selected goals of treatment for female pathological gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 25, 201–214. Scholar
  12. Dragicevic, S., Percy, C., Kudic, A., & Parke, J. (2015). A descriptive analysis of demographic and behavioral data from internet gamblers and those who self-exclude from online gambling platforms. Journal of Gambling Studies, 31, 105–132. Scholar
  13. Evans, L., & Delfabbro, P. (2005). Motivators for change and barriers to help-seeking in Australian problem gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21(2), 133–155. Scholar
  14. Ferris, J. & Wynne, H. (2001). The Canadian Problem Gambling Index: Final Report. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.Google Scholar
  15. Gainsbury, S. M. (2014). Review of self-exclusion from gambling venues as an intervention for problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 30, 229–251. Scholar
  16. Gainsbury, S., Hing, N., & Suhonen, N. (2014). Professional help-seeking for gambling problems: Awareness, barriers and motivators for treatment. Journal of Gambling Studies, 30, 503–519. Scholar
  17. George, D., & Mallery, P. (2003). SPSS for Windows step by step: A simple guide and reference. 11.0 update (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  18. Hayer, T., & Meyer, G. (2010). Self-exclusion as a harm minimization strategy: Evidence for the casino sector from selected European countries. Journal of Gambling Studies. Scholar
  19. Hodgins, D. C., & el-Guebaly, N. (2000). Natural and treatment-assisted recovery from gambling problems: A comparison of resolved and active gamblers. Addiction, 95(5), 777–789.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Hodgins, D. C., Wynne, H., & Makarchuk, K. (1999). Pathways to recovery from gambling problems: Follow-up from a general population survey. Journal of Gambling Studies, 15(2), 93–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ladouceur, R. (2005). Controlled gambling for pathological gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21, 51–59. Scholar
  22. Ladouceur, R., Gosselin, P., Laberge, M., & Blaszczynski, A. (2001). Drop-outs in clinical research: Do results reported in the field of addiction reflect clinical reality? The Behavior Therapist, 24, 44–46.Google Scholar
  23. Ladouceur, R., Jacques, C., Giroux, I., Ferland, F., & Leblond, J. (2000). Analysis of a casino’s self-exclusion program. Journal of Gambling Studies, 16(4), 453–460.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Ladouceur, R., Sylvain, C., & Gosselin, P. (2007). Self-exclusion program: A longitudinal evaluation study. Journal of Gambling Studies, 23, 85–94.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Leblond, J., Ladouceur, R., & Blaszyzynski, A. (2003). Which pathological gamblers will complete treatment? British Journal of Criminology, 42, 205–209.Google Scholar
  26. Lesieur, H., & Blume, S. (1987). The South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS): A new instrument for the identification of pathological gamblers. American Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 1184–1188.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Marshall, K., & Wynne, H. (2003). Fighting the odds. Perspectives [Catalogue no. 75-001-XIE], pp. 5–12. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.Google Scholar
  28. Morgan, T., Kofoed, L., Buchkoski, J., & Carr, R. D. (1996). Video lottery gambling: Effects on pathological gamblers seeking treatment in South Dakota. Journal of Gambling Studies, 12, 451–460.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Nelson, S. E., Kleschinsky, J. H., LaBrie, R. A., Kaplan, S., & Shaffer, H. J. (2010). One decade of self-exclusion: Missouri casino self-excluders four to ten years after enrollment. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26, 129–144.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Nowatzki, N. R., & Williams, R. J. (2002). Casino self-exclusion programmes: A review of the issues. International Gambling Studies, 2, 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nower, L., & Blaszczynski, A. (2006). Characteristics and gender differences among self-excluded casino problem gamblers: Missouri data. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22(1), 81–99.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Petry, N. M. (2005). Gamblers Anonymous and cognitive-behvaioral therapies for pathological gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21(1), 27–33. Scholar
  33. R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd. (2014). 2014 British Columbia Problem Gambling Prevalence Study. Submitted to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, Ministry of Finance: British Columbia.Google Scholar
  34. Robson, E., Edwards, J., Smith, G., & Colman, I. (2002). Gambling decisions: An early intervention program for problem gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 18, 235–255.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Shaffer, H. J., & Hall, M. N. (2001). Updating and refining prevalence estimates of disordered gambling behaviour in the United States and Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 92(3), 168–172.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Shaffer, H. J., Hall, M. N., & Vander Bilt, J. (1999). Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the United States and Canada: A research synthesis. American Journal of Public Health, 89(9), 1369–1376.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Shaffer, H. J., LaBrie, R. A., LaPlante, D. A., Nelson, S. E., & Stanton, M. V. (2004). The road less travelled: Moving from distribution to determinants in the study of gambling epidemiology. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(8), 504–516.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Slutske, W. S. (2006). Natural recovery and treatment-seeking in pathological gambling: Results of two U.S. national surveys. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(2), 297–302.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Suurvali, H., Hodgins, D. C., & Cunningham, J. A. (2010). Motivators for resolving or seeking help for gambling problems: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26, 1–33.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Suurvali, H., Hodgins, D. C., Toneatto, T., & Cunningham, J. A. (2008). Treatment-seeking among Ontario problem gamblers: Results of a population survey. Psychiatric Services, 59(11), 1347–1350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Townshend, P. (2007). Self-exclusion in a public health environment: An effective treatment option in New Zealand. International Journal of Mental Health Addiction, 5, 390–395. Scholar
  42. Tremblay, N., Boutin, C., & Ladouceur, R. (2008). Improved self-exclusion program: Preliminary results. Journal of Gambling Studies, 24, 505–518. Scholar
  43. Volberg, R. (1999). Gambling and Problem Gambling in Oregon. Report prepared for the Oregon Gambling Addiction Treatment Foundation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of the Fraser ValleyAbbotsfordCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice ResearchUniversity of the Fraser ValleyAbbotsfordCanada
  3. 3.School of CriminologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

Personalised recommendations