13 April 2019
Individual differences in the risk of developing gambling-related harm play an important role in theoretical models and practical interventions. The present study attempted comprehensive measurement and evaluation of 25 known risk factors for gambling-related harm in order to determine which factors provided large and unique explanatory power. We surveyed 1650 regular gamblers from an online panel, screening in 1174 (466 male) who passed all checks of attention and response consistency. We evaluated each risk factor based on bivariate correlations with harms, then made separate multivariate evaluations of proximal (e.g., gambling motivations) and distal (e.g., religiosity) risk factors. Almost all bivariate correlations were significant, but most distal factors were not significant in multivariate models. Trait impulsivity was the most important risk factor by a large margin. Excessive consumption, less use of safe gambling practices, and more fallacies were key proximal risks of harm. Many well-known correlates of gambling harm (e.g., youth, lower educational attainment) do not show a direct role in the development of gambling harm when controlling for other factors. The results support theoretical models that emphasise early conditioning and biological vulnerability (manifested through impulsivity). Since maladaptive cognitive and behavioural schemas appear to be more important than motivations (e.g., escape, excitement, ego), interventions may benefit by targeting these proximal drivers of harm.