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The Risks of Gambling: Evidence of a Dose-Response Relationship

T Toneatto1, J Cunningham2, R Callaghan3, J Cordingley4

1Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 3Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 4Centre for Addiction and Mental Health


The consequences of gambling are less well described than are those for use of licit and illicit psychoactive substances. Published data on dose-response relationships for gambling are almost absent. This project took a first look at the dose-response relationship between frequency of gambling and the experience of negative consequences. This topic is important because examination of the relation of gambling frequency to the experience of problems helps clarify the nature of gambling, whether different gambling activities are more or less risky, and the extent to which gambling is similar to other addictive behaviours. Secondary analyses of four data sets were conducted (three population surveys from Ontario and one National survey). It was predicted that, as with other addictions, a dose-response relationship would be observed. The results showed that the more frequently a person gambles, the more likely he or she will experience negative consequences. Frequency of any gambling, amount of money spent on gambling, and amount of time spent gambling were all positively related to the likelihood of experiencing gambling-related problems. It was also predicted that different types of gambling activities would be associated with different dose-response curves. The results showed a consistent dose-response relationship between the experience of a gambling-related problem and frequency of: 1) Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) use (in or outside a casino); 2) other casino gambling; 3) sports lotteries; and 4) instant win tickets. There did not appear to be a consistent increase in the experience of a gambling-related problem with increasing frequency of: 1) playing bingo; 2) betting on games of skill; 3) betting on cards or board games; or 4) purchasing lottery tickets. Limitations of this research and potential future directions for this line of research are discussed.


Presentation: The risks of gambling: Evidence of a dose-response relationship. Paper presented at the Discovery 2005 conference, Niagara Falls, Canada, April 2005.

Paper: Cunningham, J.A. (2006). Risk curves: Gambling with data. Addiction, 101, 1214-1215.

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