The Relationship Between Alcohol and Gambling

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Gambling

Why gambling and alcohol do not mix: A call for the review of the regulation of the supply of alcohol to people while gambling.

by Warren Whitfield

CEO, The Addiction Action Campaign

Effect of Alcohol on motor skills and judgment/perception

Visual functions

* Even small doses of alcohol may cause longer eye fixation time, tunnel vision and defective attention switching.

* The response time of both eye movement and accommodation may be lengthened and there is a significant reduction in tolerance to glare from light.

i.e. Because of these effects, the high speed decision making requirement in the environment of a casino (for instance), would put someone under the influence of alcohol at a disadvantage.

Information processing

* Even with low blood alcohol concentrations, when more than one form of information input is presenting itself at one time the rate of processing is depressed significantly.

* Alcohol impairs impulse conduction and transmission in the central and peripheral nervous systems; rapid information analysis and processing is delayed and this in turn delays prompt and appropriate decision making.

i.e. A gambler who is under the influence of alcohol would be at a disadvantage.


* Behaviour, judgment, self-control and depth of thought are affected with associated impairment of reaction times, accuracy of response speed judgment, and performance awareness.

i.e. A gambler who is under the influence of alcohol would be at a disadvantage.

Restraint and impulse

* Alcohol disturbs the balance between restraint and impulse, frequently resulting in impulsive behaviour.

i.e. A gambler who is under the influence of alcohol would be at a disadvantage.

Muscular response

* Alcohol produces a tendency to exceed boundaries and to take much longer to correct such mistakes; furthermore, even with low blood alcohol concentration levels, gamblers tend to make too little or too many movements in placing bets. High alcohol concentrations in the blood also increase the time required to place bets and reduces the degree of restraint in the size of the bets placed

i.e. A gambler who is under the influence of alcohol would be at a disadvantage.

1. Correlation between blood alcohol concentration & clinical features

The legal Blood Alcohol Content for South Africa is 0,05%

i. 0,00 – 0,05%

Most persons show no signs of abnormality at this level while some may already show signs of euphoria with a loss of the normal balance between inhibitions and impulses. Reaction time at the level of 0,05g% is already twice as slow as normal. Impairment of coordination is already evident at a level of 0,04g%.

ii. 0,05 – 0,10g%

There is further loss of inhibitions, impairment of the ability to be self critical, over-confidence, a decrease in ability to concentrate and clouding of judgement. Most people have impaired muscular coordination at levels of 0,08g%. At 0,10g%, the reaction time is four times slower than normal.

iii. 0,10 – 0,15g%

There is further impairment of the ability to be self-critical, as well as emotional instability, memory lapses, and signs of ataxia, apraxia and agraphia. Reaction times are further delayed. Orientation with regard to time and place may be impaired.

iv. 0,15 – 0,25g%

Clinical features include ataxia, apraxia and agraphia, markedly decreased muscular coordination, a loss of orientation, emotional instability, impairment of balance and equilibrium, apathy and dullness with emotional outbursts, impairment of the normal response to painful stimuli, impairment of memory and possible memory loss.

v. 0,25 – 0,35g%

The above-mentioned abnormalities are more pronounced.

Complete muscular incoordination is evident, together with apathy, loss of memory and complete loss of sense of orientation to time and place. Stupor is possible.

i. 0,35g% and higher concentrations

Stupor is followed by coma, generalised anaesthesia and paralysis, depression of the vital centres controlling respiration and the cardiovascular system and body temperature, deep coma and death.

2. Diagnosis/levels of intoxication

i. Sober

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