Graded Exposure Therapy for Online Mobile Smartphone Sports Betting Addiction: A Case Series Report

Abstract

Advances in technology and increased usage of electronic mobile devices over the past decade have changed the way gamblers engage with online gambling. The convenience of mobile electronic devices is understood to be a major contributor to the increase of online gambling, which in turn has been implicated in the growth of sports betting. Emerging evidence suggests several sources of differentiation between mobile and other online gambling, which have important psychological implications. Given the inherent differences, we cannot conclude that evidence for the effectiveness of treatment for non-smartphone problem gambling (PG) automatically translates to online smartphone sports betting PG. The aim of this study, therefore, was to describe the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of cue exposure therapy (CET) to treat individuals presenting to a community-based PG therapy service with an online smartphone sports betting addiction, using a case series design. Six men (21–42 years old) received up to 10 weekly 60-min manualised CET sessions. Outcome measures were gambling harm, gambling urge, gambling cognitions, psychological distress, and functional impairment. All six participants completed a course of CET averaging 8.33 sessions (SD = 1.75) and reported improvement across each of the outcome measures. Psychological distress scores had reduced to the non-clinical range for all six participants and five participants scored below the cut offs for PG and functional impairment at 1 month follow up. The findings provide preliminary proof of concept evidence for the feasibility and efficacy of CET for online smartphone sports betting addiction.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. BR, SH and TN provided the cases. The first draft of the manuscript was written by BR and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ben J. Riley.

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Riley, B.J., Harris, S., Nye, T. et al. Graded Exposure Therapy for Online Mobile Smartphone Sports Betting Addiction: A Case Series Report. J Gambl Stud (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-021-10006-5

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Keywords

  • Gambling disorder
  • Online gambling
  • Smartphone
  • Case report
  • Problem gambling
  • Sports betting