Dr Rob Heirene is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Gambling Treatment & Research Clinic, based within the Brain & Mind Centre, University of Sydney. His research focuses on a variety of topics within the field of addiction, including:  using technology to reduce gambling-related harm,  the assessment and treatment of alcohol-related cognitive impairment,  exploring the parallels between the experiences of extreme sports athletes and those with substance and behavioural addictions, and  the adoption of open science principles and need for replication studies in the field. Rob’s current main project is looking at consumer protection tools for online gambling, including the prevalence of use and their effectiveness as harm-reduction strategies.
A randomised control trial to evaluate messages that promote limit setting and the effects of limits on online gambling behaviour
Aims: This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of different messages that encouraged online gamblers to set deposit limits and to examine the effects of limit setting on gambling behaviour.
Methods: A pre-registered, naturalistic randomised control trial was conducted wherein consumers were sent messages by four online Australian wagering websites. The study involved 31,989 consumers (reduced to 26,516 after screening for eligibility) who had placed bets on at least 5 days during the last 30. Messages were sent via email or in-account notification and were designed to:  be informative, describing the availability and purpose of the tool,  highlight the benefits other people receive from using the tool (social messages), or  promote the benefit individuals could receive from using the tool (personal messages). A control group of consumers who did not receive messages was monitored for comparison. We collected consumer account data for 90-days pre- and post-messages.
Results: 161 (0.71%) consumers set a deposit limit within five days of receiving the messages. Those sent messages via in-account notification were more likely to set limits than those sent via email. Differences in message content had little effect on uptake of the tool. After messages were sent, those who set limits showed significantly greater decreases in average daily wager amount, the ‘SD’ of average daily wager, net loss, and betting intensity compared to non-limit setters.
Conclusions: Consumer messages are inexpensive and can lead to small but impactful increases in the uptake of deposit limits on gambling sites.