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Obstacles to Measuring Problem Gambling and its Costs in EU


The two most important obstacles to measuring prevalence accurately are that there is as of yet no “gold standard” for measuring problem gambling, i.e. there is no internationally agreed upon and culturally neutral instrument that has yet emerged. The South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), which is probably the most widely used instrument, has been widely criticized for various shortcomings, and in some jurisdictions, it has been abandoned in favor of more tailored instruments. (See, for example, Culleton, R.P. (1989), “The prevalence rates of pathological gambling: A look at methods,” Journal of Gambling Behavior, 5, 22–41; Smith, G. J, & Wynne, H. J. (2002), “Measuring Gambling and Problem Gambling in Alberta Using the Canadian Problem Gambling Index,” Alberta Gaming Research Institute, retrieved at http://gaming.uleth.ca/; and Koeter, M. J. W., de Fuentes-Merillas, L., Schippers, G. M., & van den Brink, W. (2003), “Severity of gambling addiction: Development of a new assessment instrument,” World Psychiatry, 2, 6 (Supplement 1).)

Such instruments also have difficulties in implementation because when people are asked about their gambling behavior, they may have a high propensity to answer untruthfully either out of shame or because they are genuinely deceiving themselves about their gambling behavior and its effects on their lives. For example, the Australian Productivity Commission reported that 30% of addictive gamblers in recovery said that if they had been asked to fill in a problem gambling survey while they were still gambling, they would have lied. (Productivity Commission (1999), Australia’s Gambling Industries, Report No. 10, AusInfo, Canberra.)

Once one has measured prevalence rates, there is still the more subtle and difficult issue of determining what is an appropriate measure of social cost associated with gambling, and how it should be interpreted. There are also serious difficulties in attributing causality to the incidence of problem gambling. Indeed, there is still an absence of consensus on whether particular venues (i.e. casinos), games (i.e. video poker), or availability (i.e. expanded legalization) increase or decrease the incidence or prevalence of problem gambling. (Volberg, R. A. (2004), “Fifteen years of problem gambling prevalence research: What do we know? Where do we go?” eGambling, 10)

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