Significance of the research
This study aimed to test the effectiveness of a smart phone app to support people with a gambling problem to promote abstinence or avoid relapse, in particular for those using electronic gambling machines (EGMs or pokies). The app was intended to use geo-positioning technology to deliver a behavioural support programme to deliver timely messages at moments of high risk, for example when the person was close to a gambling venue in Auckland.
The research is an example of the Ministry investing in research exploring the use of new technology to promote gambling harm minimisation.
During the course of the study two main types of problems arose, which involved (i) poor uptake of the app and (ii) technology limitations with regard to geo-positioning.
Feedback from participants in the trial highlighted ongoing interest in smart phones apps as a tool for supporting people experiencing harm from gambling. However, issues such as shame and privacy emerged with regard to others seeing the app on their phone and possibly finding out that the person had a gambling problem. The use of the app name SPGeTTI was seen as one mitigation of the issue of having the app listed on the phone.
Technology lessons learnt include:
- the phone location feature being turned off by the smart phone user impedes the delivery of timely messages
- being in a venue where the geo-positioning signal was lost limits the utility of the intervention
- battery drainage associated with the app being used is a disincentive to use.
Ministry Response to the research report
Valuable lessons about the usefulness of such technology have been learnt. The results of the research have been used to inform the Ministry's thinking about the policy and operational utility of such technology to promote gambling harm minimisation, and to inform decision-making about similar research investments in the next three year period.