Feasibility Of Brief Screening For At-risk Gambling In Consumer Credit Counseling

Gambling disorder can manifest in different ways, including financial distress. As an attempt to find those that may be suffering from at-risk gambling problems, Dr. Sacco, an ICRG Large grant recipient, and his team set out to test the feasibility of finding at risk gamblers that are seeking credit counseling. The hope is that gambling screenings could become a part of credit counseling protocol in the future to help identify gambling problems within respondents.

What is the aim?

Dr. Sacco and his team set out to examine the feasibility of implementing a brief screening for gambling problems during consumer credit counseling screenings. They aimed to quantify the prevalence of at-risk gambling in credit counseling samples compared to national estimates. They also compared the at-risk gamblers within the sample to low-risk gamblers in the same sample to attempt to find any significant differences. Finally, the most important goal of this study was to assess the overall feasibility of integrating a gambling screen into credit counseling.

What did researchers do?

Sacco et al., 2019 collaborated with a non-profit consumer credit counseling organization to implement a routine screening for gambling participation and at risk gambling. Credit counselors were trained on how to administer the Brief Biosocial Gambling Survey (Gebauer et al., 2010) and it became a part of the standard procedure for credit counseling. All callers between March 2017 and February 2018 were screened using the BBGS. Demographic information was collected as part of the standard credit counseling assessment. In addition to implementing this screen into the standard procedure, two focus groups and three key informant interviews were completed to gauge the acceptability and feasibility of this gambling screen.

Why is this Important?

This study is important because credit counseling may serve as a potential setting for detecting at-risk gambling, as it may manifest as financial distress and/or bankruptcy. Additionally, credit counseling has not yet been considered a setting for detecting at risk gamblers and this serves as a pilot study.

What did they find?

Researchers found a study group of 68% female, average age 48 years old with 20% of respondents reporting gambling behaviors. Among those that reported gambling behavior, they found higher rates of gambling problems in this sample than the general U.S. population. Additionally, they found that low risk gamblers were slightly younger than non-gamblers. Focus groups were completed and found that credit counselors and program administers that took part in administering the gambling screen saw a benefit in integrating this screening permanently. Overall, researchers confirmed that a gambling screening during credit counseling is reasonable and acceptable.


This study was a pilot study that contained limitations. This sample is not generalizable to a national sample and analyses did not control for socio-demographic differences within the sample. As a pilot study, they were able to conclude that a gambling screen within a credit counseling call is reasonable, but further research must be done to fully understand any benefits.

Gebauer, L., LaBrie, R., & Shaffer, H. J. (2010). Optimizing DSM-IV-TR classification accuracy: A brief biosocial screen for detecting current gambling disorders among gamblers in the general household population.Canadian Journal of Psychiatry,55(2), 82–90.

Sacco, P., Jacobson, J., Callahan, C., Hochheimer, M., Imboden, R., & Hyde, D. (2019). Feasability of brief screening for at-risk gambling in consumer credit counseling.Journal of Gambling Studies,35(4), 1423–1439. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-019-09836-1.

ICRG staffResearch UpdateAt-risk gamblingConsumer Credit Counseling