The academic institution is kicking off a research project into the outcomes on society in relation to gambling behavior and harm minimisation. Led under Professor Sally Gainsubry, the Center of Excellence in Gambling Research has launched following a $600k funding round from the International Center for Responsible Gambling. The team working on the project includes a mix assortment of academics from economics, psychology, and business fields.
Key to the center’s success will be the partnerships with the gambling operators themselves. These operators will grant the researchers access to de-identified datasets, this access will enable researchers to assess the effectiveness of responsible gambling measures on at-risk players. They will conduct live tests and trials on customers to see if they can prove some hypotheses around reducing harm from problem gambling.
In a previous research conducted by Professor Gainsubry, there is a significant number of problem gamblers across the Western world. Estimating this total at 1 percent of all adults. Of those, a very small fraction seek professional help, and the research will hope to shift this trend by informing government policy about the scale and nature of the problems they’re facing.
With access to the wider academic community at the University of Sydney, the academics will be able to leverage the insights from the Brain and Mind Centre and the Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic. With the cross-departmental approach to delivering this research project, it appears to be clear that there will be a detailed set of findings that could serve as a basis for policy makers when deciding how to legislate the industry going forward.
Research into the Effects of Wagering on Society
One focus of the center’s work is to understand how wagering in casinos and online platforms impacts Australian society. The Australian gambling market is one of the most developed in the world, with a significant number of citizens engaging in betting activities, including poker machines and sports betting. The laws governing the industry vary by state but generally allow for a wide range of betting activities, making it a ripe subject for study.
Researchers will explore how gambling affects not just individual gamblers, but also their communities. Issues such as the rise in crime rates, mental health problems, and social inequality are all linked to problem gambling. These issues become even more poignant when considering Indigenous communities, who are disproportionately affected by problem gambling.
The study will assess the effectiveness of current regulatory measures like self-exclusion programs and betting limits. These harm minimisation strategies are mandated by various Australian states but have received mixed reviews regarding their efficacy. The research will provide data-driven recommendations that could influence future legislation and community interventions.
University of Sydney Research Labeled Agency Capture by Critics
Despite the promising focus on harm minimisation, the project has drawn criticism for what some consider “agency capture,” a phenomenon where an entity influences a regulatory body meant to supervise it. Critics point out that the gambling operators such as Entain, Flutter, MGM, and many others funding the research could potentially skew the outcomes, questioning the integrity of the findings.
The fact that the researchers will use de-identified datasets provided by these operators further fuels these concerns. Critics argue that relying on data from the very entities they aim to study introduces an element of bias that could invalidate the research, rendering it less useful for shaping government policy.
Defenders of the project argue that collaboration with industry is essential for comprehensive, real-world findings. They note that the inclusion of academics from diverse fields like economics, psychology, and business adds a layer of objectivity to the study. They also assure that strict ethical guidelines will be followed to ensure that the research remains unbiased and credible.
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