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Research_

Gambling

We work to reduce the impact of problem gambling in the community

We strive to better understand the psychology of gambling and minimise gambling-related harms in the community. We collaborate with consumers, industry partners, government and NGOs to apply our research in the real world.

Community engagement and impact

Our research is fully integrated with our Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic, where we provide real help to more than 550 people with gambling problems each year. This community cohort allows us to trial new, state-of-the-art treatments and prevention strategies to the people who need them most. We can test the efficacy of new treatments in a clinical setting in real time. This integration means we can roll out the best new strategies to the broader community as quickly as possible.  

Our intern program at the Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic provides unique opportunities for research students to gain real-world experience as they study. At the same time, our research and clinical insights are quickly transferred to graduates who can go on to practise in clinical settings outside the University of Sydney.

Not only has our research led to new, more effective treatment, but we have also had an impact on how governments think about and regulate gambling, how industry implements gambling practices and how a range of stakeholders measure and conceptualise gambling-related harm.

Current research projects

  • Understanding how new technology is transforming gambling and other risk-related behaviours 
  • Strategies to prevent gambling problems
  • Investigating new ways of conceptualising recovery from gambling and other behavioural addictions
  • Establishing best practice metrics to measure gambling-related harm 
  • Establishing and evaluating gambling treatments and interventions

Researcher: Dr. Sally Gainsbury.

A conceptual model to understand the psychological processes underlying risk taking online, focusing on the impact of social cues is being developed and tested. This project aims to shed light on how specific online environmental cues can impact risk taking. This will enhance our understanding of how websites can encourage risk taking and steps that can be taken to reduce associated harms such as cybercrime, overspending, and oversharing personal information, which is highly important in this digital age.

Dr. Gainsbury is interested in working with students who wish to conduct research in this area and is available as a PhD Supervisor.

Funding: Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

Venue Staff training in responsible gambling is a strategy adopted by many gaming providers to help prevent or reduce potential gambling-related harms experienced by venue customers. Currently the research team is examining the full effects of a new enhanced program that aims to increase venue staff members propensity to proactively assist gaming customers showing signs of distress.

We have developed a unique scale that assesses the full depth and breadth of gambling-related harms and consequences. We will validate the measure in both clinical and community settings.

An empirical evaluation of a novel self-exclusion program that allows problem gamblers to ban themselves from multiple gambling venues simultaneously.

We recently completed a systematic review to identify the most commonly accepted metrics for treatment success and to recommend best-practice guidelines. The findings from this review will help develop a new multidimensional scale to measure recovery in problem gamblers.

Misconceptions about how gaming machines work are at the heart of many gambling disorders. This research aims to test the effectiveness of a brief animation that explains exactly how gaming machines work in an effort to prevent excessive gambling. We will be trialling it with adolescents and young poker-machine gamblers in NSW clubs.

Researchers: Dr. Sally Gainsbury, Georgia Grattan, and Dr. Kahlil Philander, Washington State University

Project description: Skill-based Gambling Machines are variants of electronic gaming machines that incorporate elements of skill borrowed from video games with the random chance of a traditional gaming machine. Not currently allowed in Australia, these are available in some U.S. jurisdictions and aim at attracting a new market, including younger players that enjoy playing video and online games. Research is underway including an online survey of U.S. participants and a survey of participants from U.S. casinos who have played skill-based gambling machines to understand participant’s perceptions of the chances of winning on these new machines and how likely they are to play them in the future.

 

Researchers: Dr. Sally Gainsbury, Professor Alex Blaszczynski, and Professor Robert Slonim (School of Economics)

Project description: Financial institutions have strong digital capabilities and a unique opportunity to play a pivotal role in reducing harm to customers and communities from risky gambling behaviour. This research aims to understand which types of digital and non-digital interventions are likely to reduce harmful behaviours. This collaboration involves examining data to identify indicators of potentially risky gambling and evaluate interventions to enhance financial well-being. 

Funding: Commonwealth Bank of Australia, University of Sydney

 

Project description: Various research projects are underway to examine the role of emerging technology in gambling. This builds on previous work by Dr. Sally Gainsbury and Professor Alex Blaszczynski examining the role of social media in advertising gambling and the convergence of online games and gambling. Recent work includes:

  • A large-scale survey to understand how Australians use online gambling and why online gamblers select specific sites, including use of offshore gambling sites.
  • Investigation of esports betting – in collaboration with Dr. Brett Abarbanel, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Examination of virtual reality, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies in gambling including policy implications
  • Investigation of risk preferences within online simulated-gambling games – with Clinical Masters student Roisin Lynch and Professor Matthew Rockloff and Associate Professor Matthew Browne, Central Queensland University

 

Researchers: Dr. Sally Gainsbury and Professor Alex Blaszczynski, includes involvement by Honours Student Lindsey Proctor

Project description: Consumer protection tools include the ability to set binding, monetary limits on gambling expenditure, player activity statements that summarise recent gambling activity, and time-outs which enable gamblers to temporarily block access to their gambling accounts. These are intended to minimise gambling-related harms, by facilitating informed choice and gambling within affordable limits and are relevant for all consumers using online gambling sites. This project includes an investigation of innovations to enhance consumer protection by gambling operators internationally, a survey of online wagering customers to understand use of and attitudes towards consumer protection tools. This will be complemented by examining large data sets to investigate online wagering behaviour. A live-trial will be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention to enhance uptake of tools with Australian gamblers.

Funding: Responsible Wagering Australia. 

 

Researchers: Michelle Beckett and Professor Alex Blaszczynski

Project Description: Venue staff training in responsible gambling is a strategy adopted by many gaming operators to help prevent or reduce potential gambling-related harms. Research on existing venue staff training suggest methods in place do not assist in increasing staff members’ ability to proactively interact with customers who show early warning signs of distress. Training does, however, increase staff members knowledge of what signs of problem gambling look like and, therefore, increase their ability to identify customers who might be at risk. The GTRC is working with RG+ and ClubsNSW to capitalise on the strengths of existing staff training programs and teach enhanced skills to proactively intervene with customers showing potential warning signs. The GTRC will be comprehensively evaluating the implementation of the program and assessing the full impact of the training on venue staff members and customers. The new enhanced program is being developed in partnership with leading responsible gambling adult education specialist Janine Robinson from RG+.

Funding: ClubsNSW.

 

Researchers: Dr. Sally Gainsbury, Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Professor Vladan Starcevic (Sydney Medical School), Professor Joel Negin (School of Public Health), Dr. Cynthia Forlini (School of Public Health), Dr. Agnieszka Tymula (School of Economics).

Description: Problematic risk-taking behaviours, such as gambling, gaming, aggression, cyber-bullying, sexual behaviours, impulsive behaviours, and risky self-disclosure, are broad-ranging and come at significant social and economic cost to communities. Currently, many of these behaviours involve emerging technologies such as Internet-mediated communication methods and devices. These behaviours and technologies are constantly evolving, meaning that ongoing research is necessary. Problematic behaviours associated with emerging technologies are increasing across the population, with particular concerns regarding youth, and have been associated with negative mental health outcomes. We will therefore place special focus on youth and lifespan differences in behaviour using emerging technologies. Our multi-disciplinary collaboration will draw together perspectives from clinical psychology, public health, ethics, economics, social sciences (e.g., media and technology), neuroscience, and psychiatry for a comprehensive understanding at both the conceptual and applied levels of problematic risk-taking behaviours and decision-making involving emerging technologies. On the conceptual level, we will define problematic risk-taking involving emerging technologies in terms of its social determinants, associated harms, and outcomes. Gaining a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of the psychological and neural bases underlying the way individuals make decisions involving emerging technologies will allow us to develop a more robust theory of problematic risk-taking behaviour involving such technologies. We will apply this understanding to develop frameworks that promote better decision-making. We will provide harm-minimising insights for policy, inform guidelines for treatment interventions, and drive discourse in the public arena as technologies change over time.

Recently completed projects

Researchers: Prof. Alex Blaszczynski, Melanie Hartmann, Lanhowe Chen, and Michelle Beckett

Project description: The Chaplaincy Program has recently come to a finish. Data collected suggests that having a dedicated ambassador onsite at gaming venues adds value to club culture. The chaplains are shown to provide practical and emotional support to club patrons. Chaplains additionally act as an effective intermediary to assist staff members in helping customers showing signs of distress. This research adds to existing literature on responsible gambling and venue cultures and has informed an upcoming GTRC project on gaming venue staff training.

Funding: ClubsNSW

Researchers: Dylan Pickering, Brittany Keen and Prof. Alex Blaszczynski.

Project description: The 2016-17 National Association for Gambling Studies (NAGS) annual research grant, awarded to Dylan Pickering, Brittany Keen, and Alex Blaszczynski, was completed on November 1. The authors delivered a comprehensive 30-page report detailing the potential harms associated with daily fantasy sports (DFS) participation to the NAGS committee. This study was the first in the gambling field to look at this topic in the Australian community and has significant policy implications in terms of the most appropriate way to regulate DFS websites. Online survey responses from a sample of 620 DFS players and/or conventional sports bettors were examined. Overall, DFS participation was associated with significantly less harm than sports betting. Additionally, the few harms linked to DFS were characterised by a loss of work productivity or the neglect of a relationship, rather than financially-related problems. The findings raise the question of whether it is appropriate to regulate DFS under the same online wagering laws as sports betting, which is the current practice. On 22nd November, Dylan presented the study results to an audience at the NAGS annual conference at the Novotel, Melbourne. Piquing interest from a public audience, Dylan appeared on the ABC Radio National breakfast program to speak on the emergence of DFS in Australia. An article was also published in The Conversation exploring how problem gambling in Australia could be affected by proliferation of online DFS providers. DFS is rapidly expanding on an international level, and the GTRC has established a strong research presence in this new field.

Funding: National Association for Gambling Studies

 

Visiting scholars

The University of Sydney Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic is keen to welcome visiting scholars interested in working on collaborative projects. Gambling is a global issue and answers to challenges are best found by working together. We believe in the power of networks and partnerships with national and international researchers that enable gambling and risk-taking research to understand and minimise risk-related harms.

Collaborations

These partnerships include research cooperation, international exchange of ideas and progressing collaborative research. The partnerships will extend beyond the period of visitation and the intention is to establish ongoing and productive collaborative relationships between research centres.

Over the recent months the GTRC has been host to visiting scholars both internationally and nationally. 

All visiting scholars and researchers have provided valuable insight to the GTRC and are continuing to be active collaborators on various ongoing research projects.

For further information, please contact either Professor Alex Blaszczynski, GTRC Director, or Dr Sally Gainsbury, GTRC Deputy Director.
 

Our visiting scholars

Dr. Stephanie Baggio is from the Faculty of Social and Political Science at the Université de Lausanne, Switzerland, and specialises in Internet addiction, epidemiology and statistical analysis. Her time at the GTRC was spent working with Dr. Sally Gainsbury and Dr. Doug Angus on the analysis of large datasets. During her time at the GTRC she delivered a workshop in R statistical programming and a presentation on her existing research on internet gambling.

Professor Thorsten Teichert is the Chair of Marketing and Innovation at the Universität Hamburg, Germany, and was invited to become an Honorary Associate with the University of Sydney. The aim of the visit was to continue collaborative research with Dr. Gainsbury and commence two new studies that both involve Professor Blaszczynski and Dr. Gainsbury. Professor Teichert’s expertise in marketing informed a novel experiment to measure and understand the decision making processes people use when selecting online gambling sites.

Janine Robinson is a clinician and adult education expert from the RG+, a department of the Responsible Gambling Council in Ontario, Canada, and met with Professor Alex Blaszczynski to offer guidance on new responsible gambling staff training. During her visit, she consulted with various NSW gambling stakeholders to discuss new targeted initiatives aimed at better customer service and support for gamblers within venues. Robinson’s wealth of experience and knowledge provided substantiated testimony of gambling staff training initiatives and offered new perspectives on current methods used within NSW. 

Professor Matt Rockloff and Associate Professor Matt Browne, from Central Queensland University, met with Dr. Sally Gainsbury and Professor Alex Blaszczynski to establish new connections and discuss upcoming collaborations. While visiting, research assistants at the clinic had the opportunity to consult with the professors in regards to their current research projects and were given valuable recommendations. Assoc. Professor Browne provided expert advice in high level statistical analysis, and Professor Rockloff offered effective suggestions in research methods. 

Internships

  • Applicants must have a minimum of a 4-year undergraduate degree in psychology, which includes a significant independent research project and training in statistics.
  • Applicants may be currently enrolled in a Masters or PhD program, or intending to enrol in a postgraduate program and seeking further research and clinical experience.
  • The successful applicant must be able to travel to Sydney where they will be based for the duration of the placement.
  • We welcome applications from Australia or international candidates with a track record of high impact research, an accelerating research trajectory, and a commitment to advancing the gambling research field.

Note – direct clinical experience is only possible for those currently enrolled in a clinical program with appropriate provisional registration.

Applicants should submit a cover letter outlining why you would like to apply for the position and preferred timing, a CV and a brief research proposal outlining a proposed independent research project.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. However, there are a limited number of placements available.

For further information please contact either Professor Alex Blaszczynski, GTRC Director, or Dr Sally Gainsbury, GTRC Deputy Director.