“It was terrible. I didn’t set a limit”: Proximal and Distal Prevention Strategies for Reducing the Risk of a Bust in Gambling Venues

  • Simone N. RoddaEmail author
  • Kathleen L. Bagot
  • Victoria Manning
  • Dan I. Lubman
Original Paper


Although most gamblers set limits on their gambling and stick to them most of the time, there are times when limits are breached (a ‘bust’). Little is known about the prevalence, reasons for and strategies to address busts despite associated harms with a single bust. This mixed methods study used an online survey with a sample of electronic gaming machine gamblers. A total of 104 gamblers were recruited from 11 Australian gambling venues and almost half (45%) reported a bust in the past 12 months. The amount of money spent on the bust ranged from $20 to $1500 AUD (M = $446, SD = $402). The presence of a bust was positively associated with the amount of money spent in the past 30 days, and self-reported greater gambling related harms and greater gambling severity. Reasons for busts included both distal (pre-venue) factors (i.e., negative affect, lapse in intentions to set a limit, needing to win money) and proximal (inside venue) factors (i.e., chasing losses, wins or spins, social facilitation and losing money too quickly). Bust-prevention strategies identified by participants were both distal (e.g., avoid gambling altogether, leave cards or cash at home, set a time or money limit) and proximal (e.g., walk away when losing and change the manner of gambling). As busts are relative to a priori limits, gamblers at any level of gambling severity can experience a bust. Repeated busts may be an indicator of loss of control and a progression towards problem gambling. Interventions need to focus on factors that mitigate the risk of a bust (e.g., pre-commitment) and that assist gamblers to stick to their limits all of the time.


Prevention Lapse Relapse Recovery Change strategies Limit setting 



This research was conducted with funding from the Responsible Gambling Foundation. We would like to thank gambling venues and their managers for allowing us to access their venues for participant recruitment. We would also like to acknowledge the research assistants who were involved in participant interviews.

Author’s Contributions

All authors designed the study and wrote the protocol. SNR conducted the data analysis. SNR wrote the first draft of the manuscript and all authors contributed to and have approved the final manuscript.


Funding for this study was by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Australia. VRGF had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, School of Population HealthThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Turning Point, Eastern HealthRichmondAustralia
  3. 3.The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne Brain CentreUniversity of MelbourneHeidelbergAustralia
  4. 4.Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Eastern Health Clinical SchoolMonash UniversityBox HillAustralia

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