Pathways to problem gambling: A summary of research from 2010-2012


  • Chi Chuen Chan University of St. Joseph, Macau
  • Hazel Wong University of St. Joseph, Macau


This study is a meta-analysis on the results of eight projects undertaken by the first author and his research team in Hong Kong and Macau. The purpose of the present meta-analysis was to understand the pathways development of recreational and problem gambling. These eight research projects were all qualitative studies on different groups of active gamblers, which included day-traders (N=16), elderly gamblers in public housing estates (N=25), working class women (N=15), young gamblers primarily interested in soccer-betting (N= 18), a group of gamblers with criminal background (N=11), female sex workers (N=20), male sex workers and taxi drivers (N=20) and working adults (N=20). All the participants were clinically interviewed by the first author, who is an experienced clinical psychologist or his assistants. The interviews were structured on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4th edition, text revision (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The questions covered the participant?? developmental history, his/her recollections on the acquisition and maintenance of the gambling habits, his career and family development and the current state of gambling. In addition, personality tests and the Problem Gambling Severity Index ((Ferris & Wayne, 2001) will be given to the participants in order to assess their personality and gambling involvement. Results indicated that 25% of the participants can be classified as pathological gamblers. Most of the pathological gamblers came from the groups of sex workers and gamblers with criminal background. Further analysis on the participants? Background and history and their trajectory of gambling development demonstrate that the pathways development of problem gambling does not follow a linear model, whereby problem gambling is always preceded by recreational gambling. The current study clearly indicates that the basic differences between recreational and problem gambling are more qualitative than quantitative. When compared to recreational gamblers, pathological gamblers were found to have significant deficits in impulse control, which resulted in frequent chasing of losses, the preoccupation of gambling and the failure to pursue a law-abiding lifestyle. Further, most of the pathological gamblers show a general lack of adequate moral development. While the current study supports the claims of Volberg (2002) and Blaszczynski and Nower (2002) model, it proposes a new model that focuses the subjective experiences of gambling and the influences of one?? work and social environment.