The Inventory of Gambling Situations (IGS) is a 63-item self-report questionnaire developed by researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The tool is designed to identify situations that put clients at risk of excessive gambling or returning to gambling. The information it generates can be used to develop a plan to treat the problem gambling and prevent relapses.1
This webpage gives a brief overview of the evidence supporting the use of the IGS and outlines recommended approaches to using it in clinical practice. This information for providers of mental health and addiction services is based on a review of the literature and was reviewed by an expert in the field. Where not otherwise referenced, the content in this section was adapted from
Inventory of Gambling Situations: User’s Guide.1
About the Inventory of Gambling Situations
The IGS is an assessment tool that was developed based on research on relapse prevention and addiction behaviours, and was adapted based on research about people who gamble.
You can use it with clients that you’ve identified as having a gambling problem to determine which situations led them to gamble excessively in the last 12 months. The goal is to understand your client’s gambling behaviour so that you can develop a treatment and relapse prevention plan that is tailored to their specific situation.
The IGS includes 10 subscales that look at gambling patterns and triggers in the following areas:
- Negative emotions
- Conflict with others
- Urges and temptations
- Testing personal control
- Pleasant emotions
- Social pressure
- Need for excitement
- Worried about debts
- Winning and chasing
- Confidence in skill
The IGS generates a printable client profile that allows you and your client to review their gambling risk in 10 different types of situations. The profile ranks their areas of risk from highest to lowest and suggests ways to cope with their top four triggers. This makes it easy to identify and address the most troublesome areas in the relapse-prevention plan.
What does the evidence say?
Research shows that the IGS has internal validity, meaning that it is consistently effective for identifying areas of high risk in clients with gambling problems.2 Researchers have also validated this tool for use with clients who have co-occurring substance use problems.3
Research suggests that people with symptoms of depression or anxiety may be more likely to gamble when they face gambling triggers.2 Therefore, it is important to assess people with gambling problems for co-occurring mental health problems, as well as assessing people with mental health problems for co-occurring problem gambling, as this will provide important information that will be useful for treatment and relapse prevention planning.2
Putting the evidence into practice
Once you have determined that your client may have a gambling problem, you can administer the IGS (or the client can self-administer it) to understand their gambling behaviours and what situations may trigger them to gamble excessively.
You can use the paper-based, online, or mobile app versions (see the
list of resources below). The full, 63-item version of the questionnaire takes about 20 minutes to complete. If there are time constraints, consider using the validated
The questionnaire includes instructions on how to complete it, so most clients will be able to fill it out on their own. Let your client know you are available to help if they have any difficulties.
Do not give the questionnaire to someone who is under the influence of alcohol or another substance, or who is experiencing withdrawal, as the results may not accurately reflect their gambling behaviour and experiences.
To interpret the results, you can either calculate the problem index score using the instructions in the user’s guide or review the client profile generated by the online or mobile app versions (see the list of resources below).
If your client uses the paper format, you will need to enter their answers into the online IGS to generate a client profile. If you calculate the problem index score manually, you and your client will be able to compare their scores across subscales.
When reviewing the results, ask your client if they reflect their gambling experiences and behaviour. Listen to this audio clip for an example.
Encourage them to discuss the triggers and situations that put them at greatest risk of excessive gambling. Listen to this audio clip for an example.
If the client has already addressed the areas of highest risk, you can examine the next-highest areas of risk, as they might not be aware that these situations could be leading them to gamble.
After you have reviewed the high-risk situations and triggers, examine the suggested coping strategies and discuss how they can adapt them to their daily life, needs, and goals. This discussion will help you develop a treatment and relapse prevention plan that is tailored to your client’s specific situation. Listen to this audio clip for an example.
For more information about the IGS, read
the user’s guide.