Electronic gaming machines: are they the 'crack-cocaine' of gambling?

Addiction. 2005 Jan;100(1):33-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.00962.x.


Background: There is a general view that electronic gaming is the most 'addictive' form of gambling, in that it contributes more to causing problem gambling than any other gambling activity. As such, electronic gaming machines have been referred to as the 'crack-cocaine' of gambling. While this analogy has popular appeal, it is only recently that the scientific community has begun to investigate its validity. In line with the belief that electronic gambling has a higher 'addictive' potential than other forms of gambling, research has also begun to focus on identifying the characteristics of gaming machines that may be associated with problem gambling behaviour.

Aims and methods: This paper will review the different types of modern electronic gaming machines, and will use the introduction of gaming machines to Australia to examine the association between electronic gaming and problem gambling, with particular reference to the characteristics of modern electronic gaming machines.

Findings and conclusions: Despite overwhelming acceptance that gaming machines are associated with the highest level of problem gambling, the empirical literature provides inconclusive evidence to support the analogy linking electronic gaming to 'crack-cocaine'. Rigorous and systematic evaluation is required to establish definitively the absolute 'addictive' potential of gaming machines and the degree to which machine characteristics influence the development and maintenance of problem gambling behaviour.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive* / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive* / psychology
  • Electronics
  • Gambling / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Prevalence
  • Recreation / psychology*