The variables correlated with problem gambling are routinely assessed and fairly well established. However, problem gamblers were all ‘at-risk’ and ‘recreational’ gamblers at some point. Thus, it is instructive from a prevention perspective to also understand the variables which discriminate between recreational gambling and at-risk gambling and whether they are similar or different to the ones correlated with problem gambling. This is the purpose of the present study.
Between September 2013 to May 2014, a representative sample of 9,523 Massachusetts adults was administered a comprehensive survey of their past year gambling behavior and problem gambling symptomatology. Based on responses to the Problem and Pathological Gambling Measure, respondents were categorized as Non-Gamblers (2,523), Recreational Gamblers (6,271), At-Risk Gamblers (600), or Problem/Pathological Gamblers (129). With the reference category of Recreational Gambler, a series of binary logistic regressions were conducted to identify the demographic, health, and gambling related variables that differentiated Recreational Gamblers from Non-Gamblers, At-Risk-Gamblers, and Problem/Pathological Gamblers.
The strongest discriminator of being a Non-Gambler rather than a Recreational Gambler was having a lower portion of friends and family that were regular gamblers. Compared to Recreational Gamblers, At-Risk Gamblers were more likely to: gamble at casinos; play the instant and daily lottery; be male; gamble online; and be born outside the United States. Compared to Recreational Gamblers, Problem and Pathological Gamblers were more likely to: play the daily lottery; be Black; gamble at casinos; be male; gamble online; and play the instant lottery. Importantly, having a greater portion of friends and family who were regular gamblers was the second strongest correlate of being both an At-Risk Gambler and Problem/Pathological Gambler.
These analyses offer an examination of the similarities and differences between gambling subtypes. An important finding throughout the analyses is that the gambling involvement of family and friends is strongly related to Recreational Gambling, At-Risk Gambling, and Problem/Pathological Gambling. This suggests that targeting the social networks of heavily involved Recreational Gamblers and At-Risk Gamblers (in addition to Problem/Pathological Gamblers) could be an important focus of efforts in problem gambling prevention.