Big losers: Long-term effects from a proactive call
Twelve weeks after calling Norsk Tipping’s big losers, they had radically reduced their spending. We have now studied the effect after one year.
Jakob Jonsson is a Clinical psychologist and researcher at the University of Stockholm
It is now a little less than a year since we completed a research project for Norsk Tipping in which we contacted customers who had lost the largest amounts of money during the previous year. A thousand people underwent a so-called «proactive phone interview», a further thousand were contacted by letter, while a same-sized control group were not contacted at all.
During the interviews and in the letters, we informed people of how much money they had lost during the previous year, and we attempted to motivate them to make changes and use responsible gambling tools. Our hope was that they would make conscious choices that would lead to reduced spending.
Twelve weeks after the calls and letters, those customers who had received a call had reduced their spending by 29 per cent. Those that had received a letter had reduced their spending by 15 per cent, while the control group exhibited a three per cent reduction. You can read the complete report from the study here..
No customer flight
Making direct contact clearly had a profound effect. But what was the long-term effect of telephone interviews that on average lasted six minutes? And would the interview process result in customers fleeing from Norsk Tipping?
The answer to the second question is «no». During the subsequent year, fewer than one per cent of those contacted stopped gambling at Norsk Tipping. Almost all of these customers continued to gamble on a regular basis. Thus, the fear of customer flight following responsible gambling initiatives seems to be unfounded. Not only are these customers remaining loyal, but they also say that they appreciate being contacted.
Lower spending continues
So, what about the long-term effect? When we examine spending figures one year following the calls/letters, we continue to see a clear effect among those customers who received a phone call. Their spending continues to be 25 per cent lower than in the control group. On average, each has lost NOK 16,000 less than they would have done if they had maintained their previous spending levels. Customers who, during the phone interview, changed or locked their loss limits had reduced their spending to almost half.
In contrast, there was decline in the effect on those who received a letter, though there is still a significant statistical difference between this group and the control group.
Why the difference?
How do we explain the lasting effect of the telephone interviews compared with the reduced effect of the letters? Members of both groups received the same information concerning how much they had lost during the previous year, which is recognised as a key motivation for behavioural change. My belief is that the explanation lies in the fact that the group contacted by telephone to a much greater extent have taken the decision to lower or lock their loss limits. In the case of those who received letters, the motivational threshold to use the system to change their loss limits on their own seems to have been too high. A limit that is set, or locked for that matter, continues to help customers even when their motivation declines.
In Sweden, from 1 January, a so-called «duty of care» has been imposed on gambling companies as part of new gambling regulations governing the access that foreign-based, private sector companies are granted to offer gambling services in Sweden. Part of this duty involves contacting customers when the company becomes anxious about their gambling behaviour. Experience from Norsk Tipping’s research projects using proactive telephone interviews will most certainly have a major influence on how such interviews will be carried out in Sweden.
As a research scientist, I hope that studies such as this will also be carried out in Sweden. We have in fact very little knowledge about the short- and long-term effects of the various responsible gambling initiatives. In a review article that addressed what we know about the effects of various decisions taken to prevent gambling problems (McMahon et al., 2019), the authors conclude that we are largely ignorant. We know very little about the short-term effects, and even less about the long-term effects. It thus gives me great pleasure to be able to present this «one-year follow-up» report of the Norsk Tipping study.
Jonsson, J., Hodgins, D. C., Munck, I., & Carlbring, P. (2019). Reaching out to big losers: A randomized controlled trial of brief motivational contact providing gambling expenditure feedback. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
McMahon, N., Thomson, K., Kaner, E. & Bambra, C. (2019). Effects of prevention and harm reduction interventions on gambling behaviours and gambling related harm: An umbrella review. Addictive behaviors. 90, 380-388. https://doi.org.10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.11.048
About Norsk Tipping:
Norsk Tipping AS (Norsk Tipping) is Norway’s state-owned gaming company with sole rights as operator of several gaming activities in the Norwegian domestic market. The mandate is to offer gaming activities in a safe and secure environment under public control with the aim of preventing negative consequences of gambling.
Norsk Tipping has approximately 2 million players from the adult population of 4 million every year. In 2017 the company had a turnover of approximately 355 million Euro.
Product portfolio:Lottery Games, sports games, scratchcards, online casino and bingo, interactive video terminals.
The Norwegian Gaming Authority supervises the company’s games operation.