The gambling industry is often scrutinized for its influence on gambling research studies. This scrutiny is based upon the belief that industry funders have an agenda that seeks to influence the research that it funds. A previous study by Ladouceur et al., 2018 found that there are no significant differences between gambling research funded by the industry and those supported by non-industry sources. In an attempt to expand upon these findings and make them more applicable, Shaffer and his colleagues completed a large-scale systematic review to look at the differences in hypothesis confirmation and rejection between industry funded and non-industry funded sources.
What is the aim?
The aim of this study by Shaffer et al., 2019 was to determine the extent to which funding sources may influence characteristics of research design and outcomes. A recent study completed for the same outcomes found that there were no differences between gambling industry and non-industry funded research. This current study expanded upon this prior research to determine the generalizability of these findings. More specifically, this study expanded from “responsible gambling” research to all “gambling-related” research findings.
What did the researchers do?
Researchers completed a comprehensive review of 18 data bases that examined gambling studies from June 2008 to August 2018. The sample included 720 studies from four gambling journals and 14 addiction journals and were all quantitative with clear gambling hypotheses. Researchers used hypothesis confirmation and funding source information contained within the publications to determine the presence or absence of funding biases. Industry-funded studies were defined as studies funded by gambling industry operators, excluding federally operated programs. Statistical analyses were completed to determine if there were any significant differences between studies that were industry funded and those that were not.
Why is this important?
This study Is important because the role of research funding, especially industry funding, is a source of considerable debate. The nature of the concern of bias due to funding source warrants close consideration. Prior to this study, only one study had explored the effect of industry funding on gambling research outcomes, and this study aimed to expand and generalize those findings.
What did they find?
Researchers found that within the 720 studies in the sample, gambling industry-funded studies were no more likely to report confirmed or rejected hypotheses than non-industry funded. Additionally, studies funded by the industry were more likely to include a Conflict of Interest Statement within the publication. More than 30 percent of studies within the sample included no funding source, 49.7% failed to include any COIs, and only 6.4% of the studies were industry-funded. The researchers concluded that this study helps highlight the necessity of transparency and disclosure when it comes to research publications, especially those regarding gambling disorder.
Although this study builds upon and strengthens previous findings on the effect of industry funding on gambling research, there are still some notable weaknesses. This is still a beginning effort, with a coding system that was chosen by the researchers and which others may not agree with. Additionally, researchers reported that each study was limited to one hypothesis, and, therefore, secondary hypotheses were not examined within the sample.
Ladouceur, R., Shaffer, H., Blaszczynski, A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2018). Responsible gambling research and industry funding biases.Journal of Gambling Studies,25(3), 725–730.
Shaffer, P., Ladouceur, R., Williams, P., Wiley, R., Blaszczynski, A., & Shaffer, H. (2019). Gambling research and funding biases.Journal of Gambling Studies,35(3), 875–886.