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A Case of Mistaken Identity? A Comparison of Professional and Amateur Problem Gamblers

Abstract

Professional gamblers are more likely than amateur gamblers to meet criteria for problem gambling but minimal research has examined their gambling behavior and its consequences. This study compared gambling behavior, problem gambling symptoms, related harms, recognition, and help-seeking among problem semi/professional gamblers (PPGs/PSPGs) and problem amateur gamblers (PAGs). Surveys completed by 57 self-identified professional gamblers, 311 semi-professional gamblers and 4226 amateur gamblers were analysed. PPGs/PSPGs were significantly more likely than PAGs to be male, younger, never married, speak a language other than English at home, and have higher psychological distress, compared to PAGs. PPGs/PSPGs were more likely to gamble more frequently on many skills-based forms, but most also participated in several chance-based forms. PPGs’/PSPGs’ most common problematic gambling form was electronic gaming machines and they were more likely to have problems with sports betting than PAGs. Most PPGs/PSPGs reported coming out behind on all gambling forms over the previous year. PPGs/PSPGs were more likely than PAGs to report chasing losses and numerous detrimental financial gambling consequences. This group’s self-identification as PPGs/PSPGs is clearly inaccurate and perhaps a means to avoid stigma, elevate status and support problem denial. PPGs/PSPGs may represent an extreme example of gamblers with erroneous cognitions and beliefs who lack the required discipline and skill to be successful professional gamblers. The findings identify a group of problem gamblers who may benefit from interventions to dispel their mistaken self-identity, and emphasize the need for more rigorous confirmation of professional gambler status in future research.

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Acknowledgments

The study that this paper is based on was commissioned by Gambling Research Australia—a partnership between the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments. Gambling Research Australia provided financial support for this project and approved this manuscript for publication.

Conflict of interest

The first author declares no conflict of interest in relation to this manuscript. She has received research funds from government and industry sources. The second author declares no conflict of interest in relation to this manuscript. He has received research funds from government sources. The third author declares no conflicts of interestst in relation to this manuscript. She has received research funds from government and industry sources. The fourth author declares no conflict of interest in relation to this manuscript. He has received research funds from government and industry sources.

Ethical standard

Ethical approval was obtained from two university human research ethics committees. 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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Correspondence to Nerilee Hing.

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Hing, N., Russell, A.M.T., Gainsbury, S.M. et al. A Case of Mistaken Identity? A Comparison of Professional and Amateur Problem Gamblers. J Gambl Stud 32, 277–289 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-015-9531-4

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Keywords

  • Professional gambler
  • Amateur gambler
  • Problem gambling
  • Self-identity
  • Gambling behavior