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Use of Self-control Strategies for Managing Gambling Habits Leads to Less Harm in Regular Gamblers


There is little research on the control strategies used by the general public to self-manage gambling habits and avoid harmful consequences. The current study sought to identify the most common self-control strategies of people who gamble regularly, the characteristics of those who use them, and assess the effectiveness of limit-setting strategies in reducing gambling-related harm. We recruited a large sample (N = 10,054) of Canadian adults who reported gambling activity in the past 12 months. Participants completed a survey that assessed gambling habits, use of control strategies including quantitative limit setting, and gambling related harm. The most common control strategies were setting predetermined spending limits, tracking money spent, and limiting alcohol consumption. The number of self-control strategies used by gamblers was positively associated with gambling involvement, annual income, problem gambling severity and playing electronic gaming machines. Approximately 45% of respondents failed to adhere to self-determined quantitative limits for spending, frequency, and time spent gambling. People who stayed within their gambling limits were less likely to report harm even after controlling for other risk factors. However, the effectiveness of remaining within one’s personal spending limit decreased for those whose limits exceed $200CAN monthly. The findings support public health interventions that promote lower-risk gambling guidelines aimed at helping gamblers stay within spending, frequency and duration limits.

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Study was funded by La foundation Mise sur toi, an independent non-profit organization based in Montreal, Canada. The contents of this paper are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the funder.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Shawn Currie and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Shawn R. Currie.

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Conflict of interest

Currie [Consulting Fees: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction]. Nadeau [Consulting Fees: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction]. Hodgins [Grants/Research Support: CIHR; AGRI; Ministry of Health, New Zealand; Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, Ontario; Manitoba Gambling Research Program. Speakers Bureau/Honoraria: Conference travel funds New Horizons, Health Management Systems of America, Gambling International Symposium, Switzerland, V Congresso Clinca Psiquitria, Brazil, NCRG, Las Vegas, Responsible Gambling Council, Toronto. Consulting Fees: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Other: Partial salary support from the Alberta Gambling Research Institute]. Brunelle [Consulting Fees: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.Grants/Research Support: Fonds de recherche Société et culture Québec (FRQSC), Quebec Ministry of Health (Ministère de la santé du Québec); Consulting Fees: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction]. Flores-Pajot, Brunelle, Dufour and Young have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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The method described in the paper relies on secondary analyses of an existing dataset.

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Currie, S.R., Brunelle, N., Dufour, M. et al. Use of Self-control Strategies for Managing Gambling Habits Leads to Less Harm in Regular Gamblers. J Gambl Stud 36, 685–698 (2020).

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  • Self-control strategies
  • Gambling-related harm
  • Prevention
  • Expenditure limits
  • Protective strategies