Gaming machines research programme: Desk exercise into the impact of high-stake, high-prize gaming machines


The Gambling Commission carried out an exploratory desk exercise to improve our understanding on the potential harmful effects of high-stake, high-prize gaming machines on problem gamblers. We considered existing research and literature in three areas:

  • causal links between the availability of high-stake, high-prize gaming machines and the development of problem gambling
  • the attraction of these machines to existing problem gamblers
  • the exacerbation of gambling problems from access to such machines.

This desk exercise built on available literature reviews and considered other recent international research, as well as the limited evidence from Great Britain.  It was not a systematic and comprehensive review of all available literature.  Its main aim was to help the Gambling Commission to develop a programme of research for the future. 

We completed the desk exercise with help from Professor Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University, who acted as a contributing editor.

The full report can be found at: Impact of high-stake high-prize gaming machines on problem gambling - December 2008

Key findings

There was no general agreement in the available research from Britain and other jurisdictions about how much these high-stake, high-prize gaming machines cause gamblers to become problem gamblers. 

However, evidence suggested that there are associations between gaming machines and problem gambling, and that machine players were most likely to contact national telephone help lines.

Evidence suggested that while gaming machines appeared to appeal to many gamblers, they seemed to be particularly attractive to those at risk of, or with a gambling problem.

Compared to non-problem gamblers, problem gamblers tended to play on gaming machines more frequently, and spend more time and money on them. Certain features of gaming machines, such as fast games or offers of free games, appealed to gamblers and are therefore associated with higher levels of gambling and gambling-related harm.

Research from some countries suggested that the accessibility of gaming machines has some association both with the level of gambling and with problem gambling rates.  In particular local access to the machines seemed to be relevant - probably because many gamblers tend to gamble closer to home.

Some evidence suggested that problem gambling behaviours fluctuated over time and that many gamblers intermittently experience difficulties controlling their gambling. 

There was uncertainty in the available research about how best to minimise the harm that gamblers are exposed to when using gaming machines.

The research suggested that to understand why most gamblers can enjoy using gaming machines without significant excess, but some seriously overspend and others become addicted, we need access to players in their gambling habitats and data on players.  Both would need a substantial research effort as well as support from the industry.

There were various overseas initiatives that impose harm minimisation measures. Much of this work was ongoing or only just emerging. It would in due course provide insights into the nature of the links between problem gambling and machine gaming, and the effectiveness of specific measures to minimise harm from gambling.


Page last reviewed: October 2013

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