Quitting while you're ahead: Evidence for individual gambling thresholds from a survey of Massachusetts Gamblers

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Douglas M. Walker
Debi A. LaPlante
Sarah E. Nelson


Although key stakeholders have discussed responsible gambling tools and protective behavioral strategies for years, evaluations of their effectiveness are still limited. Among protective behavioral strategies are individual gambling thresholds, typically on monetary losses or time spent gambling, after which a person stops gambling. A novel, counter-intuitive alternative, a monetary win threshold, also might hold value. Simulations have shown that, like monetary loss or time thresholds, win thresholds reduce the amount of time spent gambling and therefore also limit average expected gambling losses. Yet, little is known about gamblers’ use of gambling thresholds. In this paper, we examine data from an internet panel survey of past-year gamblers in Massachusetts to better understand the characteristics of those individuals who are more likely to use and adhere to loss and win thresholds. We observed that individuals who had engaged in recreational drug use were less likely to adopt gambling thresholds. Individuals who had previously received a positive screen for depression, and who travelled to out-of-state casinos were more likely to use gambling thresholds. In analyzing the adherence to gambling thresholds, we found that individuals who adhered to their loss thresholds were less likely to use ATMs during gambling sessions. Finally, individuals who engaged in hazardous drinking were less likely to adhere to their own win thresholds. This study adds to the literature by providing evidence related to the characteristics of gambling threshold users and contributes some of the only evidence in the literature on the actual use of monetary win thresholds.

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