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Efficacy of a web-based self-help tool to reduce problem gambling in Switzerland: study protocol of a two-armed randomised controlled trial
  1. Christian Baumgartner1,
  2. Elena Bilevicius2,
  3. Yasser Khazaal3,4,
  4. Sophia Achab5,
  5. Susanne Schaaf1,
  6. Andreas Wenger1,
  7. Severin Haug1,
  8. Matthew Keough2,
  9. David Hodgins6,
  10. Michael P Schaub1
  1. 1Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  2. 2Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  3. 3Addiction Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  4. 4Research Centre, Institute of Mental Health, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  5. 5WHO Collaborating Centre for Training and Research in Mental Health, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
  6. 6Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Christian Baumgartner; christian.baumgartner{at}


Introduction The past-year prevalence of problem gambling worldwide averages 2.3%. Switzerland exhibits a slightly lower past-year prevalence rate, of 1.1%, among adults. Only a minority of these adults attend outpatient treatment. Surveyed problem gamblers have explained that they wanted to handle the problem on their own. The option of a web-based self-help programme could potentially reach those users who hesitate to approach treatment centres and help them to reduce or stop their problem gambling. The effectiveness of such web-based interventions has been shown in other countries.

Methods and analysis This two-armed randomised controlled trial (RCT) will examine the efficacy of a web-based self-help intervention, relative to an active control condition with a self-help manual, at reducing problem gambling. The active intervention programme, spanning 8 weeks, consists of nine modules developed to reduce gambling and attenuate psychopathological comorbidity, including depression, anxiety and stress-related disorder symptoms, relying on motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy. With a target sample size of 352, questionnaire data will be collected at baseline, and at 8 and 24 weeks after baseline. Primary outcomes will be the number of days one has gambled in the last 30 days. Secondary outcomes will include money and time spent on gambling activities, changes in gambling-related problems (Problem Gambling Severity Index, Gambling Symptom Assessment Scale), use of alcohol and cigarettes, and psychopathological comorbidity. All data analysis will comply with the intention-to-treat principle.

Ethics and dissemination The RCT will be conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki; the consort eHealth Guidelines for studies on medical devices; the European Directive on medical devices 93/42/EEC, Swiss Law and Swiss Regulatory Authority requirements. The study was approved by the ethics committee of the Canton of Zurich. Results will be published in a scientific peer-reviewed journal. Participants will be informed via e-mail about study results via a lay-person-friendly summary of trial findings.

Trial registration number Current Controlled Trials registry (ISRCTN16339434).

  • gambling
  • behavioural addiction
  • psychopathological comorbidity
  • self-help
  • web-based
  • cognitive behavioural therapy

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  • Contributors MPS set up the initial idea and plan for this study. CB did the first draft of the paper and prepared the final manuscript. CB, MPS and SS developed the intervention of study arm 1. Study arm 2 was developed by DH and adapted to Switzerland by CB, YK and SA. AW and CB programmed and implemented the study websites of Win Back Control. EB, YK, SA, SH, MK and DH helped throughout the development of the interventions and gave valuable feedback to the present study protocol. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript submitted for publication. CB is the guarantor.

  • Funding This project is cofinanced by the 16 SOS-Spielsucht-Cantons, Health Promotion Switzerland and the Canton of Zurich. The funders had and will have no role in study design, analysis, decision to publish or preparation of manuscripts.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the ethics committee of the Canton of Zurich on 18 December 2018 (BASEC-Nr. 2018–01989).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.