A vulnerable player is someone who has a higher than average risk level for developing a gambling problem. They may be biologically predisposed to seek arousal, they may be experiencing emotional (e.g., a relationship break up) or psychological problems (e.g., depression), or they may be experiencing financial difficulties which may (e.g., chasing) or may not (e.g., job loss) be related to their gambling. However, they are still able to make rational decisions and maintain control over their gambling behaviour. Nevertheless, they are vulnerable to the affect of high-risk game factors. By contrast, a person with a gambling problem cannot usually make rational decisions about their gambling behaviour and they may dissociate (zone out) whilst playing. People with gambling problems are not usually the target for responsible gambling strategies (including gamgard), beyond those designed to prevent them from playing and to assist them in finding appropriate support and treatment services.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a vulnerable player and why doesn’t gamgard consider the risk to people with gambling problems?
Gamgard is based on universal risk factors that examine the psychology behind gambling, and our knowledge about how these risks influence the development of problematic gambling behaviour. Research does not usually specify different risk factors for different game types, because they are usually present in all game types to a greater or lesser extent. For example, a slot machine may have a rapid event frequency of a few seconds, whereas a lottery draw may be once a week. In both cases, the risk factor event frequency impacts the overall risk of the game, but the risk is much higher for the slot machine and it will receive a higher score for this risk factor. So the scores on each universal risk factor define the risk differences between games. If a risk score is not relevant to a particular game, then it will score zero for that risk factor. Also, because all games are examined in relation to the same risk factors, it means that the overall risk is comparable both within game types (e.g., different versions of a slot machine) as well as between different game types (e.g., how risky is a slot machine compared to a weekly lottery?).
Not necessarily, as the risk score is an indication of risk if a game is launched to all players and without any restrictions being imposed (e.g., no restrictions on when the game is available to play). However, a high-risk score is an indicator that one or more of the risk factors is scoring high and should be re-examined and/or further responsible gambling tools should be introduced (e.g., a pop-up time warning). Gamgard provides indicative risk assessment but should always be considered in the context of the specific circumstance in which a game is being promoted and sold.
Q: How do we measure the event frequency of a scratch-ticket (or similar game) purchased from a retail outlet (e.g., at a store or ticket booth)?
The event frequency includes the time taken to actually purchase a game and be at the point where another game can be purchased (one complete gaming cycle). In a retail environment this can vary depending on how many tickets are purchased at one time and how busy the retailer is (e.g., is there a line-up/que to purchase). In these cases, we recommend considering the fastest likely scenario and the slowest likely scenario and then taking an average of the two. Furthermore, experience has shown that it is unlikely that a customer will buy more than a few tickets in once purchase and return purchases often depend on whether a previous ticket was a winner. In practice, event frequency does not score very high where a game must be physically purchased from a retailer. That is, it is not usually a risk factor that significantly impacts the overall risk of this kind of game.
Q: How do we measure the continuity of play for a scratch-ticket (or similar game) purchased from a retail outlet (e.g., at a store or ticket booth)?
The shortest period of continuous play that gamgard considers, is one hour. It is extremely unlikely that a player would purchase so many scratch-tickets that it would take them more than an hour to scratch them all in one session. The process of returning to a retailer to purchase more tickets can be considered a break in play as it requires the player to interact with the retail staff to make the purchase, following which they will likely move away from the sales counter to scratch their tickets. Again, it is unlikely that a player could remain at a sale counter for more than an hour scratching off tickets without further interactions from the sales staff.
Evidence for the involvement of skill in the development of problem gambling shows mixed results. For example, some low-skill games are associated with a high degree of problematic gambling (e.g., slot machines) as well as with some high-skill games (e.g., poker). Also, different players have different levels of skill and it is therefore not possible to examine skill as a consistent risk factor across game types or players. However, illusion of control (believing you have more skill than reality dictates) has been shown to be a risk factor for vulnerable players. Therefore, any game that promotes an illusion of skill (e.g., a stop button slots, hints and tips on probability game etc.) does contribute to the overall risk of a game.