Submission Type

Presentation

Submission Title

Loyalty Programs in the Gambling Industry: Understanding the Risks and Potential for Harm Minimization

Session Title

Session 3-4-B: Responsible Gambling Programming

Location

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada

Start Date

30-5-2019 3:30 PM

End Date

30-5-2019 4:55 PM

Disciplines

Advertising and Promotion Management | Health Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts | Social Psychology

Abstract

The field of gambling studies has been remarkably silent on the impact of loyalty programs in the gambling industry. In this presentation, I review the scant empirical literature with an aim to stimulate discussion and research about the impact of loyalty program membership on players. Preliminary evidence suggests that disordered gamblers are more apt to join a loyalty program and be disproportionately rewarded (due to the amount of money they spend gambling) relative to recreational and at-risk gamblers. As such, loyalty programs in the gambling industry may generate harms in vulnerable individuals. However, loyalty programs may also be well positioned to facilitate harm-minimization by promoting behavioral tracking that is collected on every member—information that can be provided to players to advance responsible gambling. Additionally, members could be rewarded for engagement with responsible gambling tools, which may increase the currently low rate of tool use. That said, structuring loyalty programs to reward the use of responsible gambling instruments with time on device or even non-monetary prizes may be incompatible with harm-minimization efforts. This presentation concludes with a call for empirical research on the antecedents and consequences of loyalty program membership to better triangulate on the potential pitfall and benefits loyalty programs in the gambling industry may have on members.

Keywords

loyalty programs, reward, responsible gambling, harm minimization, disordered gambling

Author Bio

Dr. Michael Wohl is a Professor of Psychology at Carleton University. Work in his Carleton University Gambling Laboratory focuses on, among other things, factors that predict disordered gambling (e.g., persistent play in the face of continued loss), facilitators of responsible gambling (e.g., monetary limit setting and adherence), and means to overcome barriers to behaviour change. Recently, members of his laboratory have turned their attention to the potential pitfalls and benefits of loyalty program membership.

Dr. Wohl has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and is the receipt of Carleton’s Research Achievement Award, the Carleton University Teaching Excellence Award, and the Faculty Graduate Mentoring Award. Recently, he was named a Fellow of the American Psychological Society and Society for Personality and Social Psychology. To facilitate his gambling research, Wohl has received funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Problem Gambling Researcher Centre (now Gambling Research Exchange Ontario), National Center for Responsible Gambling, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and Manitoba Gambling Research Program.

Funding Sources

Gambling Research Exchange Ontario, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Competing Interests

Dr. Michael J. A. Wohl has received funding from federal granting agencies in Canada and Australia for research unconnected to his gambling research. In relation to his gambling research, he has received research funds from granting agencies in Canada and the United States. He has also received direct and indirect research funds from the gambling industry in Canada, United States, and Sweden. Additionally, he has served as a consultant for the gambling industry in Canada and the United States. A detailed list can be found on his curriculum vitae (http://carleton.ca/bettermentlabs/wpcontent/uploads/CV.pdf).

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May 30th, 3:30 PM May 30th, 4:55 PM

Loyalty Programs in the Gambling Industry: Understanding the Risks and Potential for Harm Minimization

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada

The field of gambling studies has been remarkably silent on the impact of loyalty programs in the gambling industry. In this presentation, I review the scant empirical literature with an aim to stimulate discussion and research about the impact of loyalty program membership on players. Preliminary evidence suggests that disordered gamblers are more apt to join a loyalty program and be disproportionately rewarded (due to the amount of money they spend gambling) relative to recreational and at-risk gamblers. As such, loyalty programs in the gambling industry may generate harms in vulnerable individuals. However, loyalty programs may also be well positioned to facilitate harm-minimization by promoting behavioral tracking that is collected on every member—information that can be provided to players to advance responsible gambling. Additionally, members could be rewarded for engagement with responsible gambling tools, which may increase the currently low rate of tool use. That said, structuring loyalty programs to reward the use of responsible gambling instruments with time on device or even non-monetary prizes may be incompatible with harm-minimization efforts. This presentation concludes with a call for empirical research on the antecedents and consequences of loyalty program membership to better triangulate on the potential pitfall and benefits loyalty programs in the gambling industry may have on members.