The central goal of this research was to develop an animal model of gambling, focusing on the effects of random reward schedules, which several authors have suggested are the key to making gambling engaging but also potentially addictive. We sought to test the ability of random reward schedules (the type experienced on a slot machine) to increase motivation and to contribute to the development of compulsive, addiction-like behavior. While animal models of drug addiction demonstrate compulsive drug-seeking, this type of addiction-like behavior has not previously been demonstrated in animals performing gambling-related tasks. Previously, we had shown that gambling schedules produce high motivation in rats in the moment, but do not lead the animal to compulsively seek reward. This lead us to wonder whether other factors might be necessary to push the animal towards addiction. In one project, we examined the effects of a dopamine-altering drug, pramipexole, on the development of addiction-like symptoms in rats on a gambling schedule. Pramipexole, a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, has been shown to lead to compulsive behaviors, gambling and otherwise, in as high as 30% of users. Hence, we tested whether rats on pramipexole and rewarded on a random schedule would be more likely to develop addiction-like behaviors than those off the drug. Pramipexole increased motivation and enhanced reward pursuit in the face of countervailing cues and decreasingly reward availability. On the other hand, it did not enhance the pursuit of reward paired with punishment, a criteria met by some drug addiction models. Hence, our model yields some features of addiction but not all. Further, the motivational and compulsive effects were seen equally whether the reward schedule was random (i.e., gambling-like) or fixed (i.e., reward after a fixed number of responses). This later finding suggests a lack of an interaction between the drug and gambling schedules. In other words, the drug makes many activities more addictive, not just gambling.
In a second attempt to create a model of gambling addiction, we examined whether rats exhibiting symptoms of depression might develop addiction-like behavior when given prolonged exposure to a random reward schedule. To test this, we used a rodent model of depression, the Kyoto Wistar rat. We found that Kyoto Wistar rats had difficulty inhibiting responses when reward was not available and continued reward pursuit despite escalating punishment. Both of these are hallmarks of addiction. On the other hand, they were no more likely than normal Wistar rats to pursue reward when the reward schedule became progressively leaner. Further, a follow-up study showed that the compulsive behaviors were just as likely whether the rat was rewarded on a random schedule as on a fixed schedule. In summary, both pramipexole and depression induce several features of addiction in rats on gambling-like reward schedules. Further, our results suggest that these effects are not specific to gambling but affect other reward-guided behaviors as well.
A final study examined the effects of gambling schedules on the distribution of dopamine receptors. Numerous studies have implicated dopamine in the reward systems of the brain and this neurotransmitter is suspected to play a major role in many forms of addiction, including gambling addiction. We examined the distribution of three sub-types of dopamine receptors after prolonged exposure to a random or fixed reward schedule. We predicted that rats on the random schedule would show marked changes in some receptor types is the nucleus accumbens, a key component of the reward circuit. This study has been completed, but the analysis is still on-going. We are excited to see the results as it is one of the first studies to examine changes in receptor density in response to gambling-like behaviors in animals.
The goal of this research was to study the basic neurobiological mechanisms underlying gambling and gambling disorder, with an aim to eventually develop novel treatments and prevention strategies for problem gambling. Towards this aim, we sought to develop a rodent model of gambling which captures the compulsive aspects of gambling addiction. Such models exist for drug addiction they have greatly increased our knowledge of the brain’s reward circuits and how they are affected by drugs of abuse. We have shown gambling reward schedules create high levels of motivation but rarely lead to compulsive behavior. However, when combined with either a specific dopamine-enhancing drug or depression, we do see the emergence of some addiction-like behaviors. The effects of this drug and depression show no synergism with gambling behaviors, affecting rats on both gambling and non-gambling reward schedules. If we extend these results to humans, out data suggest that dopamine agonists and mood disorders increase the tendency for addiction across a broad range of reward-guided activities, not just gambling. These result further our knowledge of what it takes to induce addiction both in our rat model and in humans. Ours is also one of the first studies to examine the changes in dopaminergic activity induced by gambling activities in rodents.
Laskowski, C. S., Dorchak, D. L., Ward, K., Christensen, D. R., & Euston, D. R. (2019). Can slot-machine reward schedules induce gambling addiction in rats? Journal of Gambling Studies, 35(3), 887-914. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-019-09852-1
Laskowski, CS, Lapointe, V, Le May, KNG Dorchak, DL, Ward, KM, and Euston, DR (2021). Does dopamine agonist treatment create brains that are vulnerable to gambling addiction? Presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Conference. Virtual Conference, Calgary, Alberta. April 27 - 29, 2021.
Dorchak, DL, Laskowski, CS, Euston, DR (2021) Compulsion without motivation: the effects of slot machine-like schedules on a depressive animal model. Presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Conference, Banff, Alberta. Virtual Conference, Calgary, Alberta. April 27 - 29, 2021.
Laskowski, CS, Dorchak, DL, Ward, KM, Le May, KNG and Euston, DR (2020). Dopamine receptor modulation in gambling rats. Presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Conference. Virtual Conference, Calgary, Alberta. Mar 19-22, 2020.
Dorchak, D., Laskowski, C., & Euston, D. (2019). Compulsion without motivation: the effects of slot machine-like schedules on a depressive animal model. Presented at the NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Laskowski, C., Dorchak, D., Ward, K., & Euston, D. (2019). Dopamine agonist administration increases addiction-like behaviours on both gambling and non-gambling reward schedules in a rodent model. Presented at the NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Laskowski, CS, Ward, KM, Dorchak, DL, and Euston, DR. (2019). Pramipexole administration induces behavioral addiction in rats by altering dopamine-mediated reward systems. Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Annual Meeting. Banff, Alberta. March 28-30.
Dorchak, DL, Laskowski, CS, Morris, LM, and Euston, DR (2019). Pramipexole administration induces behavioral addiction in rats by altering dopamine-mediated reward systems. Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Annual Meeting. Banff, Alberta. March 28-30.
Ward, KM, Laskowski, CS, Dorchak, DL, Christensen, DR, and Euston, DR. (2019) Effects of Stress and Gender on Impulsivity in Rats. Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Annual Meeting. Banff, Alberta. March 28-30.
Dorchak, D., Laskowski, C., Morris, L., & Euston, DR. (2019). Are depressed rats more likely to become compulsive rats? Presented at the Meeting of the Minds Conference, Lethbridge, Alberta.
Laskowski, C., Ward, K., Dorchak, D., & Euston, DR. (2019). Pramipexole lifts all boats equally on the seas of behavioral addiction. Presented at the Meeting of the Minds Conference, Lethbridge, Alberta.
Euston, DR (2018). Gambling Rats: Motivation but not Compulsion. Talk given at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute's Annual Conference. Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta. April 12-14, 2018.
Morris, LS, Laskowski, CS, Dorchak, DL, Euston, DR (2018). Are depressed rats more susceptible to behavioral addiction? Poster and talk presented at the Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference. University of Alberta, Edmonton. August 17-19.
Guyn, CM, Ward, KM, Euston, DR (2018). How do you find impulsive rats? Factors that influence the measurements of delay discounting. Poster presented at the Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference. University of Alberta, Edmonton. August 17-19.
Laskowski, CS, Ward, KM, Dorchak, DL, Christensen, DR, Euston, DR (2017). Does Chronic Dopamine Agonist Administration Generate Gambling Addiction in Rats? Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Conference - April 12-14, Banff, AB.
Dorchak, DL, Ward, KM, Laskowski, CS, Christensen, DR, Euston, DR (2017). Are Impulsive Rats More Sensitive to Gambling Reward Schedules? Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Conference - April 12-14, Banff, AB.
Burchan, MS, Ward, KM, Laskowski, CS, Dorchak, DL, Euston, DR (2017). Measuring Impulsivity in Rats - Is There a Better Way? Poster presented at the Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference. University of Alberta, Edmonton. August 18-20.
The aim of the research project was to investigate the utility of fear-based pop-up messages as a responsible gambling strategy for online gambling. In Study 1, we examined the emotional and cognitive evaluations of fear-based, text-only pop-up warnings, as well as their perceived efficacy in 59 participants who gambled online. We also examined whether the messages were attended to via eye-tracking technology. The main effects of message theme/threat level were not significant on any outcome measure. However, the 2x2 interaction for the outcome of overall effectiveness was significant, whereby the high-threat and social message combination was rated more effective than other combinations. For eyetracking, there were no significant findings. The results suggest that fear-based social messaging may be more effective than non-fear inducing or financially oriented messages.
In Study 2, we empirically tested the social threat message in a sample of participants who gambled online. A total of 738 participants were randomly assigned to one of 4 conditions: social threat self-appraisal, (n=184) social threat (n=185), control (n=181), or active control (n=188). The results suggested that while all types of messages including the active control outperformed the control condition, the social threat self-appraisal, social threat, and active control did not differ in regard to improving responsible gambling behaviours. The result of the proposed research helps to extend our current understanding and utility of pop-up messages as a responsible gambling strategy. Specifically, the results suggest that the type of messaging may not be central to the utility of pop-up messages as a responsible gambling strategy. However, the results provide support that pop-up messages have utility as a responsible gambling strategy for online gambling.
The proposed project further strengthened an immensely successful collaboration between researchers at the University of Calgary and Central Queensland University (Dr. Matthew Rockloff) and Carleton University (Dr. Michael Wohl). Indeed, our study team have published 4 peer-reviewed manuscripts to date, have two under review, and one manuscript currently in preparation.
The proposed research may further help to enhance the efficacy of responsible gambling
strategies. The result of the proposed research indicates that pop-up messages may have
utility as a responsible gambling strategy for online gambling. As such, online gambling
operators could incorporate pop-up messages as responsible gambling tool to enhance their current responsible gambling strategies. Indeed, while pop-up messages are generally found in electronic gaming machines, the results of our research project suggests pop-up messages also have utility for online gambling.
Mutti-Packer, S., Kim, H. S., McGrath, D. S., Ritchie, E. V., Wohl, M. J. A., Rockloff, M., & Hodgins, D. C. (2022). An experiment on the perceived efficacy of fear-based messages in online roulette. International Gambling Studies, ahead-of-print, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/14459795.2022.2038655
Ritchie, E.V., Mutti-Packer, S., McGrath, D.S., Kim, H.S., Rockloff, M., Wohl, M.J.A., &
Hodgins, D.C. (2020, March). Pop-up messages for internet gambling: An experimental
study examining the efficacy of fear appeals. Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling
Research Institute’s 19th Annual Conference, Banff, AB.
While the impacts of problem gambling on work-life roles and responsibilities are well established, little is known about the specific overlap between gambling and work, especially in the case of gambling in the workplace or during work hours. This sequential mixed method study was designed to understand the characteristics and experiences of individuals who gamble in the workplace in Canada.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted (n=1742); individuals who were employed full-time completed a survey on gambling in the workplace or during working hours, including preferred activities, the nature of Internet gambling, problem gambling, use of workplace time/resources, and variables that increase likelihood of gambling during working hours, including potential challenges and benefits of gambling in work contexts. Participants were also asked to rate work satisfaction. Respondents identified frequency, methods of access, motivations for and activities of workplace gambling, including office pools, as well as gambling- and workplace-related variables. From the quantitative survey results, 299 participants indicated willingness to participate in follow-up interviews. From this pool, purposeful sampling was used to recruit 25 individuals who met DSM-5 criteria for Gambling Disorder. Follow-up interviews further explored experiences of workplace gambling and gambling during work hours, as well experiences of work satisfaction and gambling. Qualitative results were analyzed using Interpretive Phenomenological analysis and findings compared and interpreted in relation to quantitative data.
Individuals who gamble during work hours were divided into one of three categories based on their stated motivations for gambling in the workplace, 1) those that gamble to socialize or be part of office pools, 2) those that gamble due to boredom or avoidance, and 3) those that are intrinsically motivated to gamble. A series of binary logistic regressions (social/office pools vs avoidance; avoidance vs intrinsic motivations; social/office pools vs intrinsic motivations) were undertaken to identify predictors of group membership and gambling during working hours. Overall findings indicated that lottery and sports betting are the most common workplace gambling formats. Participation in lottery and raffles are more socially motivated. Another group of individuals who gamble during work hours prefer more gambling centric formats (e.g., sports betting, games of mixed chance and skill). Workplace gambling primarily takes place on personal devices although 36.3% of workplace gamblers reported using employer resources to access gambling. Individuals who gamble in the workplace are more likely to endorse DSM-5 criteria for problem gambling than those who do not (33.5% vs 7.5%), and the majority of individuals gambling at work report satisfaction with their work (65.1%). Qualitative interview results highlighted how participation in office pools may be part of a workplace culture, and a way for co-workers to connect, and that gambling during work hours has both perceived costs and benefits. Participants offered insights about what employers need to know about the nature of gambling in the workplace, and what supports would be beneficial for those who experience more problematic gambling. Overall, results highlight the importance of understanding gambling motivations in supporting individuals with Gambling Disorder and those who gamble during work hours.
Implications: This research highlights the value of education for employers and human resource professionals about the nature of workplace gambling, the potential risks and benefits, and how to support individuals who experience problem gambling that overlaps with their work role. While overall individuals who gamble in the workplace report satisfaction with work, qualitative interviews revealed a complex relationship between work and problem gambling experiences, particularly as individuals who gamble during work are more likely to meet criteria for Gambling Disorder. This highlights the value of career counselling interventions to address work and career issues that are implicated with problem gambling.
This study has advanced knowledge in several AGRI priority areas, including socio-economic impacts of workplace gambling; influence of Internet and remote gambling on workplace gambling experiences, including the types of gambling engaged in during work. Overall the study will inform human resources policy and treatment provision by highlighting the role of gambling during work hours, including motivations for workplace gambling, and experiences of gambling problems and benefits by those who gamble during work hours. Findings have been shared with the gambling research community through the AGRI 2020 virtual conference platform. Findings and implications for counselling and treatment were also shared at Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association 2021 conference. Three manuscripts are in preparation and the results have also informed a recently submitted AGRI Major Grant proposal to investigate the utility of a work and relational practices intervention approach for problem gambling recovery. Three graduate students have received training, mentoring, and experience in mixed-methods gambling research.
Three in development.
Hudson Breen, R., O’Brien, D., Sanders, J., & Trafford, L. (2022, June 17-19). A mixed-method study of gambling and work: Characteristics and experiences. Canadian Psychological Association Annual Convention.
Hudson Breen, R., Sanders, J. Trafford, T. & Gower, H. (2021, May 13-15). A mixed-methods study on gambling in the workplace: Characteristics and experiences. Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) Annual Conference.
Hudson Breen, R., Sanders, J. Trafford, L., & Gower, H. (2020, April). A mixed-methods study on gambling in the workplace. Phase I: Characteristics & experiences. Alberta Gambling Research Institute [Virtual Poster Presentation / online video].