Warning Messages May Help Decrease High Risk Gambling

Casual gamblers and gamblers with addiction issues think differently when they gamble, but all gamblers appear to hold unrealistic beliefs when they gamble. “Since erroneous beliefs tend to be directly related to risky gambling behavior, helping individuals maintain a rational perspective during gambling may protect them from taking unreasonable risks and developing a gambling problem,” said Bianca F. Jardin of the Department of Psychology at the University of Albany, State University of New York. “Based on this reasoning, several policymakers around the world have begun to implement harm minimization strategies, such as displaying warnings in the form of pop-up messages on gambling machines.” The messages are designed to make the gambler aware of the risks associated with their behavior and also to dispel any false beliefs the gambler may hold. However, the effects of these warnings have not been researched adequately.

In order to provide evidence of the efficacy of such methods, Jardin and her colleagues enrolled 88 frequent gamblers in an experiment that provided them with accurate, inaccurate or neutral messages while they gambled. The participants who served as a control were provided no messages. The results revealed that the gamblers who received the accurate messages during the experiment actually stopped gambling before they ran out of money and also placed smaller bets than the other participants. “Contrary to assumptions, messages mimicking gamblers’ irrational beliefs about their ability to improve their chances of winning did not result in riskier behavior because the participants in this condition did not differ from those in the other conditions,” said Jardin.

“When combined with the results of other studies, the present findings suggest that inserting warning messages into periods of play can effectively alter the level of risky behavior for gamblers across the spectrum, from low- to high-frequency to problem and pathological gamblers.” Jardin added, “Beyond message content, future efforts should also focus on systematically modifying messages in terms of other dimensions (e.g., interactive vs. static messages) in order to identify a gold standard for presenting preventive information in the most effective way.”

Jardin, B. F., & Wulfert, E. (2011, December 19). The Use of Messages in Altering Risky Gambling Behavior in Experienced Gamblers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026202

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Gard


    December 29th, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    Come on! Can’t they get ahold of this alone? Do we have to hold everyone’s hand when really they should just say no?

  • Tara N.

    Tara N.

    December 29th, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    “…several policymakers around the world have begun to implement harm minimization strategies, such as displaying warnings in the form of pop-up messages on gambling machines.”

    Gee, I hope they are as effective as the health warnings that are printed on cigarette packets in the UK about smoking being bad for your health. Oh wait…

  • Alvaro Jimenez

    Alvaro Jimenez

    December 30th, 2011 at 1:19 AM

    @Gard: “Do we have to hold everyone’s hand when really they should just say no?” Gard, there’s not as humanitarian a reason as that behind this action. I would bet my bottom dollar (hehe) that all the machine manufacturers and casinos want to do is cover themselves so they don’t get sued by a gambler who says the machines didn’t warn him he could become addicted.

  • Graeme Bailey

    Graeme Bailey

    December 30th, 2011 at 2:51 AM

    I’m sorry but I don’t believe for a minute these pop-up messages will have any lasting effect. Sure, they may initially as the gamblers are new to them and that would be the case in the study as it was a novel experience.

    Eventually though, it will be like ads on a website. You just start tuning them out until you don’t even register them in your brain anymore. Remember when you first got online and all the banners on pages seemed so intrusive? What was the last one you saw about? Can’t recall?

    Exactly my point.

  • Richard Pine

    Richard Pine

    December 30th, 2011 at 2:53 AM

    We’re talking about grown men and women here, people. If they want to gamble they will. A little popup that is effectively slapping them on the wrist saying bad boy isn’t going to deter them for long. That’s like slapping a label saying don’t drink me on a bottle of vodka and handing it to an alcoholic. It’s all going to end in tears.

  • Harriettr


    December 30th, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    a real addict will just continue to play right through those warnings, the same way that smokers continue to puff their lives away despite the surgeon general’s warnings found on every single pack.



    December 30th, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Lets see these being put into every gambling machine there is by law. Then we’ll talk!

  • Cynthia Bell

    Cynthia Bell

    December 31st, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    gamblers are not going to change their behavior until they have lost practically everything that is important to them- until they have been allowed to hit rock bottom then they are not going to have the will to change their behaviors. And some won’t even see it until well past the time when they have lost it all!

  • Marilyn Lancelot

    Marilyn Lancelot

    January 1st, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    Sure, everyone loves to gamble . . . if they win. But, the person sitting next to you in church, the man in line at the grocery store, or one of your co-workers; any one of these could be involved with a gambling problem. Imagine your grandmother committing a crime to support her gambling addiction. I am a recovering alcoholic, gambler, and have recovered from other addictive behaviors. I published a book, Gripped by Gambling, where the readers can follow the destructive path of the compulsive gambler, a prison sentence, and then on to the recovery road.

    I recently published a second book, Switching Addictions, describing additional issues that confront the recovering addict. If a person who has an addictive personality, doesn’t admit to at least two addictions, he’s not being honest. Until the underlying issues have been resolved, the person will continue to switch addictions. These are two books you might consider adding to your library. I also publish a free online newsletter, Women Helping Women, which has been on-line for more than twelve years and is read by hundreds of women (and men) from around the world. I have been interviewed many times, and appeared on the 60 Minutes show in January 2011, which was moderated by Leslie Stahl.


    Marilyn Lancelot

  • Allan Etheridge

    Allan Etheridge

    January 2nd, 2012 at 5:09 AM

    No no no! I’m already tired of this “Put a warning on everything more dangerous than string” rubbish that’s been creeping into every nanny state on the planet. I know the risks of gambling. I know to gamble what I can afford to lose. If someone else doesn’t then that’s his problem.

  • Ken Coleman

    Ken Coleman

    January 2nd, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    People will ignore them or end up aggravated by them if they’re a professional gambler or high roller. If I have a slot machine constantly nagging me about the risks of gambling I will take my money elsewhere that isn’t so condescending. If I wanted nagged I’d have stayed at home with the wife.

  • jen


    January 2nd, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    this isnt going to work.people are not there because they do not know the risk of losing but they are there coz they think they could win.its the human habit of want and greed,its not ending anytime soon.

  • AK-007


    January 3rd, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    While this may not deter the hardcore gamblers,it will certainly discourage the occasional gamblers to stay away. Will need the government’s approval to have any teeth though.

  • Janey Ferris

    Janey Ferris

    January 4th, 2012 at 11:53 PM

    You hear gambling horror stories all the time. This should be taken seriously. Some folks are just plain stupid and think it won’t happen to them. Those are the exact same folks who would ignore those warnings. This may work in a study of 88 but on a large-scale in practice in places where gamblers actually go to feed their addiction, say Vegas, it wouldn’t work imho.

  • Russell Hill

    Russell Hill

    January 7th, 2012 at 3:57 AM

    @Gard: Why so dismissive? Some people have a genuine gambling problem where they end up getting high on the possibility of a giant win. It’s far more destructive than things like alcohol as a gambling addict doesn’t crawl home or get arrested for drunk driving.

  • Carolyn Halverson

    Carolyn Halverson

    January 11th, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    Casinos are deliberately set up so you lose track of time with all the distractions, cheap or free food, and excitement. Next time you’re in Vegas, try and find out what time it is without looking at your watch and you’ll see that there are no clocks anywhere in the casino. Anything that may dilute their thirst for gambling is good.

  • janice vance

    janice vance

    January 12th, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    @Carolyn Halverson – That and you can’t make laws against limiting how much they can gamble. That will just make a gambler go to another casino. Because of how gambling is regulated in the US, casinos are often all in one place, meaning it’s not exactly a long trip. Forcing them to all communicate that there’s a guy with a gambling problem is not just a pain in the butt, but also harassment of a customer.

  • Karen Anderson

    Karen Anderson

    January 12th, 2012 at 1:24 AM

    A good bartender is one that says “You’ve had enough to drink”, and a good gambler is one that knows to walk away from the table when he’s on a winning streak and to not push his luck. There is no such thing as a good dealer in a casino.

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