Gambling disorder is associated with severe financial, social, and psychological consequences, but treatment-seeking rates have been described to be low. Apart from formal treatment, motivational interventions in nontreatment-seeking high-risk gamblers have been shown to be promising. However, little is known about the effectiveness and acceptability of such motivational interventions carried out by a gambling operator as part of the company's responsible gambling policies. Early experiences of such interventions are limited by the risk that gambling in individuals reached with the intervention may continue with a different gambling operator. The present study aims to evaluate effectiveness and user acceptability of a responsible gambling intervention continuously carried out by the Swedish state-owned gambling operator Svenska Spel Sport & Casino. This intervention for high-risk gamblers, identified either through substantial monetary losses or through a voluntary self-test by the gambler, includes a motivational telephone intervention aiming to encourage the gambler to set deposit limits, practice self-exclusion, or seek help. This protocol paper describes the two-tailed evaluation of this intervention: (1) A retrospective, register-based study of the effectiveness of the motivational intervention on gambling expenditures, deposit limits, and self-exclusions in comparison to control individuals not reached by the intervention, including all clients reached or attempted to be reached during September 2019-April 2020 (total n = 3626), as well as a one-to-one matched comparison of clients reached (n = 1404) and not reached; and (2) a prospective web survey study in individuals reached by the same ongoing telephone intervention practice from November 2020 (target n = 200), measuring clients' attitudes to the intervention, perceived effects of the intervention on gambling, and their self-reported gambling on all operators after the intervention.
Keywords: COVID-19; behavioral addiction; gambling disorder; motivational intervention; problem gambling.