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Friday, July 10, 2009

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Some video games seem to have a more addictive quality when they have a simple dynamic, linked to satisfying feedback; Tetris being the classic example and more recently, Peggle.

If video gambling machines have the potential to create addictive impulses, does this mean that some video games could be viewed as a similar stepping stone?

I don't share the views expressed in this article. Taking for granted that what is considered dangerous gaming activities could be a predictor of gambling problems is misleading. It is possible that a gambler is involved in different activities with a general tendency toward abuse. However, it doesn’t minimize the differences reported regarding the threat posed by specific gambling context and activities. In order to make my point, I would first state that in drug related problems, most heroin addicts started to smoke marijuana before getting used to their more dangerous "habit". Since we have the data to link existing gambling problems to the accessibility of specific gambling activities, in this case video lottery terminals (VLTs), we should consider carefully alternative explanation that tend to portray problem gambling as "a whole". In Quebec, VLTs are reported to be by far the game that ruins the lives of most problem gamblers. Other activities that share VLT’s features in structure and temporal access are also a public health concern. For example, Internet gambling shares structural features with VLTs as it is possible to actually play "fruit machines" online. Contextual factors are to be considered in order to understand existing data. VLTs are not equally accessible everywhere, same thing applies for casinos. Also, it is well known that a casino's income comes mostly from slot machines which are to be considered in the same family of VLTs. Accessibility and structure of a given game is a strong determinant of possible harms to a person’s health. By contrast, you can experience problems playing bingo, for instance, and the severity of the problems might be bearable in comparison to those associated with VLTs. That’s what we learn from people asking for help in Montreal’s specialized centers dedicated to treat problem gamblers. In gambling, the recurring "rewards" to keep someone playing and the possibilities of spending big amount of money in a short period of time are more likely to result in negative impacts on a regular user. The problem gambler might start playing “passive lottery” before losing it all on VLTs like a heroin addict first start to smoke pot in his "whole drug experience”.

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