Slot Machine Response Frequency Predicts Pathological Gambling

  •  Jakob Linnet    
  •  Kristine Thomsen    
  •  Arne Møller    
  •  Mette Callesen    


Slot machines are among the most addictive forms of gambling, and pathological gambling slot machine players
represent the largest group of treatment seekers, accounting for 35% to 93% of the population. Pathological
gambling sufferers have significantly higher response frequency (games / time) on slot machines compared with
non-problem gamblers, which may suggest increased reinforcement of the gambling behavior in pathological
gambling. However, to date it is unknown whether or not the increased response frequency in pathological
gambling is associated with symptom severity of the disorder. This study tested the hypothesis that response
frequency is associated with symptom severity in pathological gambling. We tested response frequency among
twenty-two pathological gambling sufferers and twenty-one non-problem gamblers on a commercially available
slot machine, and screened for pathological gambling symptom severity using the South Oaks Gambling Screen
(SOGS). The results showed that pathological gambling sufferers had significantly higher response frequency
than non-problem gamblers, and that response frequency was significantly correlated with SOGS symptom
severity among pathological gambling sufferers. Finally, binary logistic regression showed that response
frequency accurately identified 21 (95.5%) pathological gambling sufferers and 18 (85.7%) non-problem
gamblers. The correlation between response frequency and SOGS may suggest a stronger reinforcement of
gambling behavior in individuals with exacerbated pathological gambling symptoms. These findings may have
important implications for detecting behaviors underlying pathological gambling.

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