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. His current focus is on the use of consumer protection tools by online gambling customers, including rates of use and their effectiveness as harm-reduction strategies.
Accuracy of self-reported gambling frequency and outcomes
Aims: The aim of the present study was to determine whether online gambling customers can accurately recall their recent gambling outcomes and betting frequency.
Methods: An online survey was distributed to 40,000 customers of an Australian sports and race wagering website which asked participants to recall their past 30-day net outcome and number of bets. We compared responses to these questions with participants’ actual outcomes as provided by the online site.
Results: Among the 514 participants who reported their net outcome, only 8 (1.56%) and 21 (4.09%) were accurate within a 5% and 10% margin of their actual outcome, respectively. Participants who inaccurately recalled their outcome were most likely to underestimate their losses (‘N’ = 333, 64.79%). Lower actual net losses were associated with greater under- and over-estimation of losses. Of the 652 participants who reported their gambling frequency, only 28 (4.29%) and 48 (7.36%) were accurate within a 5% margin of their actual frequency. Most participants underestimated their number of bets (‘N’ = 454, 69.63%). Higher actual betting frequencies were associated with underestimating betting and lower actual frequencies with overestimating betting.
Conclusions: The poor recall accuracy observed in this study questions the reliability of research outcomes based on self-reported gambling behaviour and the use of public health approaches to gambling harm minimisation that assume people make informed decisions about their future bets based on past outcomes and available funds. Future research is needed to determine the best methods of increasing people’s awareness of their actual gambling outcomes and expenditure.