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On the Feasibility of In-Venue Observations of Electronic Gaming Machine Gamblers and Game Characteristics

Jason Landon, Katie Palmer du Preez, Maria Bellringer, Max Abbott, Amanda Roberts


Detailed observational studies of undisturbed gambler behaviour in venues are rare, especially when the focus is on continuous gambling such as electronic gaming machines (EGMs). EGMs are the main source of harmful gambling in New Zealand and all EGMs in New Zealand now include a mandatory pop-up message feature. The present study reports on 48 hours of in situ observations of EGM gamblers in casino and non-casino (pub) venues in New Zealand. We sought to establish whether relatively detailed observations of EGM features and gambler behaviour in venues were possible. The EGM feature that we focused on were pop-up messages, given their harm-minimization potential and the relative ease with which they can be observed. However, other EGM features were also documented, along with descriptive accounts of associated gambler behaviour. The results establish that relatively detailed (quantitative or qualitative) observational data can be collected in venues by using smart phones. The data showed that pop-up messages were generally attended to, but had little observable effect on gambler behaviour in venues. Direct in situ observation of gamblers can provide ecologically valid information to complement more common experimental and survey-based approaches. Suggestions are made for developing the procedure.

Les études d’observation détaillée in situ sur le comportement non perturbé de joueurs sont rares, surtout si on met l’accent sur le jeu continu, comme avec les appareils de jeux électroniques. En Nouvelle-Zélande, ces appareils sont la principale source de jeux compulsifs, et tous les appareils dans ce pays incluent dorénavant une fonctionnalité obligatoire de message contextuel. La présente étude fait état de 48 heures d’observation in situ de joueurs sur appareils dans des casinos ou d’autres lieux (bars) en Nouvelle-Zélande, et on a cherché à déterminer s’il était possible de faire des observations relativement détaillées des caractéristiques et du comportement de joueurs dans ces lieux. On a mis l’accent sur la fonctionnalité des messages contextuels pour analyser leur potentiel de diminuer des méfaits et leur relative facilité à les observer. On a aussi consigné d’autres fonctionnalités d’appareils de jeu, ainsi que des comptes-rendus descriptifs du comportement des joueurs associés. Les résultats montrent que l’on peut recueillir des données d’observation in situ relativement détaillées (quantitatives ou qualitatives) à l’aide de téléphones intelligents. Les données montrent que les messages contextuels ont généralement été pris en compte, mais qu’ils ont eu peu d’effet observable sur le comportement des joueurs. L’observation directe de joueurs peut fournir des informations écologiquement valables pour appuyer les approches expérimentales communes par sondage. On y fait aussi quelques suggestions pour mettre en œuvre une procédure.

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