Online student gamblers more motivated to take risks

Students who gamble on the internet have greater risk-taking motivation than students who don’t gamble online, new research suggests.

Internet gambling and risk-taking among students: an exploratory studywas undertaken by the International Centre for Youth Gambling Studies and High-Risk Behaviors, which is based at Canada’s McGill University.

It examined general gambling behaviour, including internet gambling (with and without money), problem gambling and risk-approach (e.g: I’m the kind of person who is usually not very cautious) motivation in 465 university students, aged 18 to 20, from two city universities.

The students completed an in-class, 44 question, multiple-choice questionnaires about internet gambling and questions about risk taking.

The Risk-Taking Questionnaire is a 20-item assessment tool used to measure risk-approach and risk-avoidance motivation (e.g: In most situations, it is often better not to take a chance).

Participants indicate to what extent they agree or disagree with each item, using a five point scale, where 1 = agree very much and 5 = disagree very much.

The students also completed a checklist of the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association) criteria for problem gambling.

Overall, eight percent of participants reported gambling for money on the internet in the 12 months prior to completing the questionnaire, with significantly higher rates among males (11.8 per cent) than females (0.6 per cent).

Based on DSM-IV criteria, 3.7 per cent of respondents (or 17 students) were classed as problem gamblers. There were higher rates of problem gambling among those who’d gambled online, and students who had gambled online had higher risk-approach scores.

Results also suggest that gambling on the internet might be harmful in particular to young men, with high risk-approach motivation and those already showing problem gambling behaviours.

The study’s researchers concluded that there are clear signs that it’s not the number of people taking part in online gambling that demands attention, but rather the characteristics of those who do so.

They recommend an approach that would see universities begin campus-wide gambling prevention programs, similar to drug and alcohol campaigns. The prevention programs would provide guidelines for responsible gambling and the warning signs to look out for that signal a gambling problem.

McBride, J. & Derevensky, J. (2009). Internet gambling and risk-taking among students: an exploratory study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 7, 50-58, May 21, 2012.