Nov 22: Gambling Lab Research Benefits Community
For the past five years, Prof. Karen Finlay from the Marketing and Consumer Studies Department has been collaborating with Michelle Nogueira, Addiction Councillor at Homewood Community Addiction Services (CADS) to discover what it is about the gambling environment that causes 4.8% of adults who gamble to become addicted.
Attracted by an ad for volunteer participants in a gambling experiment, Nogueira contacted Prof. Finlay. The two have been meeting informally since then to question and inform and share.
"I've learned a lot because of our collaboration," Nogueira said. "I now realize how important the gambling environment is. This has helped me to understand more about what treatment strategies would be most effective for my clients."
University of Guelph's newly-minted Gambling Research Lab has been designed to imitate as closely as possible an actual casino environment complete with subdued lighting, slot machines and the pièce de résistance—a Panoscope. A Panoscope is a 360° video image projected on a large inverted dome creating a panoramic effect that gives visitors the impression of standing in an actual casino.
Through experiments, surveys, and by applying qualitative research methodologies, Prof. Finlay and colleague Prof. Vinay Kanetkar have identified some of the elements of casino design that contribute to addictive behaviour among casual gamblers.
According to Professors Finlay and Kanetkar, casino environments may be separated into two basic categories: the "Playground Design" and the "Gaming Design".
The Playground Design is characterized by high ceilings and themed, spacious rooms. Often the theme will have to do with nature or being outdoors. Examples of this style include Casino Rama and Casino Niagara. The focus of these casinos is to have fun, to play and be entertained. These spaces are designed to help customers feel psychologically better and to play for longer.
The Gaming Design typically features low ceilings and a smaller, confined space. Here gambling machines are the singular focus. The crowded, labyrinth-like layout makes exiting the room difficult. The Falls View Niagara Casino and the Brantford Charity Casino are examples of this kind of casino design. Players feel more anxious, tend to spend faster and make poor decisions.
"We found that when the gambling environment allows players to refresh themselves, to look up and be aware of the time and of their responsibilities, then players are less likely to become overwhelmed and stressed resulting in dysfunctional behaviour," Prof. Kanetkar explained.
CADS draws on Professor Finlay's research to help their clients break their gambling addiction while Michelle Nogueira's current and real-life experience as an addiction councilor serves to inform the Gambling Lab research.
This research has the potential to change lives and improve life by contributing to our understanding of the issue of gambling addiction and that knowledge is shared with our partners in the community.
By Brenda L. Murray