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Disordered gambling among higher-frequency gamblers: who is at risk?

  • D. C. Hodgins (a1), D. P. Schopflocher (a2), C. R. Martin (a1), N. el-Guebaly (a3), D. M. Casey (a1), S. R. Currie (a1), G. J. Smith (a4) and R. J. Williams (a5)...

When gambling opportunities are made available to the public in a given jurisdiction, some individuals participate occasionally and others more frequently. Among frequent gamblers, some individuals develop problematic involvement and some do not. This study addresses the association among demographic and social risk factors, frequency of gambling and gambling disorders.


Data from an adult community sample (n=1372) were used to identify risk factors for higher-frequency gambling and disordered gambling involvement.


Individuals with higher intelligence, older individuals and more religious individuals were less frequent gamblers. Males, single individuals and those exposed to gambling environments (friends and family who gamble) and those who started to gamble at a younger age were more frequent gamblers. Excitement-seeking personality traits were also higher among more frequent gamblers. A different set of risk factors was associated with the likelihood of gambling disorder among these higher-frequency gamblers. These variables included mental health indicators, childhood maltreatment and parental gambling involvement. Among higher-frequency gamblers, individuals who smoke cigarettes, those with a diagnosis of alcohol or drug dependence or obsessive–compulsive disorder, those with higher anxiety or depression and those with higher impulsivity and antisocial personality traits were more likely to report gambling-related problems. These individuals were also more likely to report gambling on electronic gambling machines (e.g. slot machines).


These data suggest a model in which higher-frequency gambling, particularly with electronic gambling machines, when combined with any type of emotional vulnerability increased the likelihood of gambling disorder.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr D. C. Hodgins, Department of Psychology, 2500 University Drive NW, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2W 5K5 Canada. (Email:
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