Effects of Alcohol, Initial Gambling Outcomes, Impulsivity, and Gambling Cognitions on Gambling Behavior Using a Video Poker Task

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Drinking and gambling frequently co-occur, and concurrent gambling and drinking may lead to greater negative consequences than either behavior alone. Building on prior research on the effects of alcohol, initial gambling outcomes, impulsivity, and gambling cognitions on gambling behaviors using a chance-based (nonstrategic) slot-machine task, the current study explored the impact of these factors on a skill-based (strategic) video poker task. We anticipated larger average bets and greater gambling persistence under alcohol relative to placebo, and expected alcohol effects to be moderated by initial gambling outcomes, impulsivity, and gambling cognitions. Participants (N = 162; 25.9% female) were randomly assigned to alcohol (target BrAC = .08g%) or placebo and were given $10 to wager on a simulated video poker task, which was programmed to produce 1 of 3 initial outcomes (win, breakeven, or lose) before beginning a progressive loss schedule. Despite evidence for validity of the video poker task and alcohol administration paradigm, primary hypotheses were not supported. Individuals who received alcohol placed smaller wagers than participants in the placebo condition, though this effect was not statistically significant, and the direction of effects was reversed in at-risk gamblers (n = 41). These findings contradict prior research and suggest that alcohol effects on gambling behavior may differ by gambling type (nonstrategic vs. strategic games). Interventions that suggest alcohol is universally disinhibiting may be at odds with young adults’ lived experience and thus be less effective than those that recognize the greater complexity of alcohol effects.

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