For most of us, the slots are purely entertainment. We marvel at the impeccable graphics, appreciate creative themes, and simply use them to pass the time. They’re games of chance, and we understand that. Sometimes, we win and we get to smile a little. (Ok, we do a happy dance all around the room if nobody is looking.) Other times, we pay a little money for the sake of decent amusement. C'est la vie. Sadly, that isn’t the case for everyone, and a few things of interest have recently hit the news regarding problem gambling. Austrian Court Ruling Between 2006 and 2010, an Austrian man became a bit fanatical about playing slots. Apparently, the machines aren’t tucked away inside casinos there. Instead, they’re in all sorts of locations ranging from restaurants to gas stations. During the four-year period, the man ran up 800,000 euros in debt due to his gambling addiction. He underwent a psychological evaluation, which proved he did indeed have an addiction, and the court accepted it as evidence. In the end, a judge ruled that the maker of the slot machines, Novomatic, was responsible for at least some of the debts. A final 440,000 euro judgment was issued against Novomatic, though they have stated they intend to appeal the decision. There have been several similar stories emerging out of Austria in recent years, and the country is considering legislation which will outlaw the placement of slot machines outside of casinos. Naturally, Novomatic, which operates an estimated 1,500 of the 2,600 total free-standing machines, also intends to do what they can to ensure the law does not pass. Causes of Problem Gambling Research out of Monash University in Australia indicates that people with gambling addictions usually have other issues too. Personality disorders, such as anti-social, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic, are common. Additionally, people are more prone to having a gambling problem if they had a poor relationship with their parents as a child, if they abuse alcohol or drugs, and if they suffer from depression or anxiety. Other research has shown that a gambling addict’s brain actually works differently than those who play for entertainment as well. They produce fewer endorphins, and they suffer from neurological abnormalities. For these reasons, they don’t fully comprehend what the odds of winning are, and they don’t have the same stress-response that a normal person would. It’s been further noted that these issues tend to run in families. A person who has a direct relative with a gambling issue is eight-times more likely to have one, himself. Psychologists at Sydney University are working to combat a main component by educating people with gambling addictions about how probability truly works. Reportedly, 80 to 90-percent of people who have undergone this type of therapy have reduced their habits. Tests The Gambling and Addictions Research Center at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) has been experimenting with the use of pop-ups as a test to see if someone might be at risk. They studied how people responded to pop-up messages, which showed the amount of time and money spent during a gambling session. Average players were not bothered by the messages. In some cases, they even found them beneficial and used the pop-ups as a tool to help regulate themselves. Although no reduction in time spent was noted, many of these players decreased the amount of money they spent. On the other hand, at-risk betters often became irritated with the pop-ups or questioned their accuracy. Online Protection Most online casinos offer an opt-out or self-exclusion program for gamblers. If someone believes they have an issue, they can choose to block their access to a casino or an entire network of casinos. In these cases, the casino will either block the player entirely, or they will no longer accept deposits or process withdrawals for them. Depending on the jurisdictions involved, the casino may be on the hook for any debts incurred, just as the case was with the Austrian man. For the most part, studies are showing that some people are just prone to having a gambling problem. It’s not an issue of having access to a betting venue or of casino marketing. It’s simply a matter of how that person’s brain is hardwired. The main issue which is presently being debated is who should be held liable for the actions of the problem gambler. If the player knows they have a problem and still gambles, should they be held fully accountable? What if a casino offers responsible gaming options like an opt-out program and it fails? Does that change who is accountable? For now, these questions are being answered in individual jurisdictions and courts throughout the world, and the majority of cases are holding the casino at least partially responsible.