Problem Gambling Tests

There are a number of different ways in which governments and problem gambling counsellors test people to see if they have a gambling problem. Tests usually incorporate one or more of these four components:

  • Mental health issues. The American Psychiatric Association describes it as "persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behaviour that disrupts personal, family and vocational pursuits."
  • Economic issues in which gambling causes financial strain.
  • Social questions relating to the person's behaviour.
  • A harm based definition, focusing on harm caused to the individual player, family and community from gambling activities
  • Questions about the degree and severity of problems based on the view that there is a continuum ranging from recreational gambling with no adverse impacts through to problem gambling.

Obviously, the results of testing will vary depending on the type of questions being asked. For example, SOGS has a lot of questions about economic issues and CPGI has more questions about feelings.

What tests are used to identify problem gamblers?

There are 3 main tests use to identify if someone has a gambling problem. The test adopted by Australian governments to determine the percentage of the population that has a gambling problem is the Canadian Problem Gambling Index (CPGI). The CPGI is used in telephone surveys. Gambling counsellors mostly use the SOGS or the DSM-IV. All the tests have their strengths and weaknesses. One difficulty is where to draw the line between someone who has a gambling problem and someone who doesn't.

Canadian Problem Gambling Index (CPGI)

In the last 12 months how often have you:

  1. Bet more than you could really afford to lose?
  2. Needed to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling of excitement?
  3. Gone back another day to try to win back the money that you lost?
  4. Borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?
  5. Felt that you might have a problem with gambling?
  6. Felt that gambling has caused you health problems, including stress and anxiety?
  7. People criticised your betting or told you that you have a gambling problem, whether or not you thought it was true?
  8. Felt your gambling has caused financial problems for you or your household?
  9. Felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?

South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS)

  1. When you gamble, how often do you go back another day to win back money you lost?
  2. Have you ever claimed to be winning money gambling but weren't really? In fact you lost?
  3. Do you feel you have ever had a problem with gambling?
  4. Did you ever gamble more than you intended to?
  5. Have people criticised your gambling?
  6. Have you ever felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?
  7. Have you ever felt like you would like to stop gambling, but didn't think you could?
  8. Have you ever hidden betting slips, lottery tickets, gambling money, or other signs of gambling from your spouse, children or other important people in your life?
  9. Have you every argued with people you live with over how you handle money? How many arguments centred on your gambling?
  10. Have you ever borrowed from someone and not paid them back as a result of your gambling?
  11. Have you ever lost time from work due to gambling?
  12. If you borrowed money to gamble or pay gambling debts, who or where did you borrow from?
  13. From household money?
  14. From your spouse?
  15. From other relatives or in-laws?
  16. From banks, loan companies, or credit unions?
  17. From credit cards?
  18. From loan sharks?
  19. You cashed in stocks, bonds or other securities?
  20. You sold personal or family property?
  21. You passed bad cheques?

DSM-IV (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, 4th edition)

  1. As gambling progressed, became more and more preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, studying a system, planning the next gambling venture, or thinking of ways to get money.
  2. Needed to gamble with more and more money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
  3. Has repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop gambling.
  4. Became restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  5. Gambled as a way of escaping from problems or intolerable feeling states.
  6. After losing money gambling, would often return another day in order to get even('chasing') one's losses.
  7. Lied to family, employer, or therapist to protect and conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
  8. Committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement, in order to finance gambling.
  9. Jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, marriage, education, job or career because of gambling.
  10. Needed another individual to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation produced by gambling (a 'bailout').

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