Lia Nower, JD, Ph.D. Professor and Director
Center for Gambling Studies
Rutgers University, School of Social Work

In 2022, the ICRG released a call for proposals inviting investigators to explore the impact of expanded legalized gambling on emerging adults (aged 18-26). The winning proposal was a Center of Excellence led by Dr. Lia Nower at Rutgers University. The center will study established risk factors for this demographic group, along with more contemporary considerations, such as the influence of the changing legislative landscape, gambling associated with video games, as well as understudied areas such as genetic risk factors, intergenerational influences, and dispositional variables. The use of representative samples will bolster the generalizability of the findings while providing a nuanced understanding of how risk is influenced by state support of gambling. In addition, longitudinal datasets with genetic information will inform an exploration of biological correlates and trajectory of gambling activity and problems in the context of a theoretical framework, the Pathways Model, developed by Dr. Nower and Dr. Alex Blaszczynski. This model “integrates the complex array of biological, personality, developmental, cognitive, learning theory and ecological determinants of problem and pathological gambling.”

The overall goal of this Center of Excellence Proposal is to conduct a comprehensive, systematic study of risk factors that impact gambling among emerging adults to inform policy, education, prevention, and treatment efforts. Translational knowledge from this project will be disseminated as evidence-based materials and tools that will be useful for the general public as well as for treatment providers, policymakers, and researchers.

This research was funded by grants from FanDuel and Hard Rock Entertainment to the International Center for Responsible Gaming.

In 2022, the ICRG released a call for proposals inviting investigators to explore interventions to prevent the negative consequences associated with gambling, including impacts on the gambling of players who gamble in a problematic manner. The following year, the ICRG awarded a Center of Excellence Grant to Dr. Sally Gainsbury at the University of Sydney. Reflecting the multi-disciplinary approach of the Center grants, Dr. Gainsbury and collegues will create a Centre for Excellence in Gambling Research (CoEGR) within existing research centers focusing on gambling treatment and harm prevention research (psychology, Gambling Treatment & Research Clinic), understanding how gambling harms contribute to social and economic disadvantage over the lifetime (economics, ARC Life Course Centre), how to prevent gambling and other addictions among young adults (public health, Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use), and the role of technology in problematic behavior (multidisciplinary Technology Addiction Team, Brain and Mind Centre). As such, the new CoEGR will focus on conducting cutting edge investigation of gambling behavior and interventions and translating them to inform policies and practices to minimize gambling harms while building research capacity. The objectives of the first three years will be to investigate low voluntary engagement with responsible gambling tools and ways to enhance this through technology-based targeted interventions for vulnerable subgroups.

Their research methods are multidisciplinary and include working with large datasets provided by online gambling operators of customer behavior over a 12-month period and pre-and post-interventions, self-report survey responses linked with objective behavioral data from online gambling operators, and qualitative research using co-design to develop interventions likely to be effective in targeted groups (e.g., young males).

The potential benefits of the outcomes from this program of research for reducing gambling harms are clear. The center will identify groups who appear to be at the greatest risk of experiencing gambling harms and determine how to identify these groups via their behavioral patterns in online account data, improve the understanding of how to engage these groups with preventative interventions and current barriers, identify the most effective ways of communicating with at-risk gamblers to encourage positive behavioral change in the form of voluntary consumer protection tool use and determine whether mandating the dissemination of activity statements is an effective harm reduction strategy.

This Center of Excellence in Gambling Research is supported by a grant from Bally’s Corporation.

Principal Investigator: Nassim Tabri, PhD, Carleton UniversityAwarded $34,213.68 in 2022Aim: Assess the influence of completing the Positive Play Quiz (PPQ), an online Positive Play Scale-based self-test that provides players with instant personalized and normative feedback, on gambling beliefs and behaviors. The investigators hypothesized that responsible gambling beliefs and behaviors will improve because of the personalized and normative feedback provided.

Principal Investigator: Mark van der Maas, PhD, Rutgers UniversityAwarded $34,500 in 2022Aim: Use the Restricted Access Database of the National Violent Death Reporting System to investigate changes in the rate and characteristics of deaths by suicide in states that have legalized online casino gambling compared against synthetic controls.

The International Center for Responsible Gaming is pleased to honor Dr. James P. Whelan with the 2022 ICRG Scientific Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to the field of gambling disorder.

Whelan’s career, spanning three decades, has exemplified connecting research with practice, not only expanding the knowledge base of gambling disorder but also helping inform relevant clinical practice and raising awareness for the general public. His many achievements in research include the development of The Gamblers’ Belief Questionnaire, The Gambling Self – Efficacy Questionnaire and the Gambling Timeline Followback—all impactful instruments in the field. Beyond academia, his work has led to casino companies seeking his assistance in developing responsible gambling policies. The American Gaming Association invited Dr. Whelan to join the Responsible Gambling Collaborative to help craft the AGA’s Effectiveness Principles.

Whelan’s commitment to public awareness of gambling disorder began with the establishment of the Gambling Clinic, an outpatient gambling treatment center which he co-founded in 1999. He co-created an evidence-based treatment guide for a brief gambling intervention, which has helped more than 1,200 of those with gambling problems successfully make change. Most recently, he worked on passing the Tennessee Education Lottery Bill, creating a statewide safety net for those with gambling difficulties. Perhaps the crown jewel of his outreach efforts has been the “Control the Troll” brand. Whelan recruited an inter-disciplinary team of advertising and marketing professionals to help develop a wide-ranging dissemination campaign throughout the Mid-South, reaching thousands through billboards, television commercials, health fairs and presentations.

Finally, Whelan’s mentoring of young scientists has made a long-lasting contribution to the field of gambling studies. Notable alumni have continued their own work in gambling, such as Jeremiah Weinstock, Tim Steenbergh, Ryan May, Rory Pfund, Sam Peter and Meredith Ginley.  The future of gambling studies is brighter because of Whelan’s outstanding mentoring of young scientists.

The International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG) is pleased to honor Dr. Sarah Nelson with the 2022 ICRG Scientific Achievement Award for her outstanding contributions to the field of gambling disorder.

Nelson is well known in the gambling studies field for many reasons. Exemplary works include studies of voluntary self-exclusion and actual online gambling and gaming. Her research has suggested that self-exclusion provides an important pathway for recovery and also serves as a reasonable proxy for gambling-related problems in internet gambling player records studies. Nelson also played a key role in the Division on Addiction team that was the first to publish research using actual internet gambling player records. This and related work have helped shape contemporary understandings of internet gambling, illustrating the value of player records as a complement to self-report research strategies and showing how operators might use gambling records to identify and intervene with players who might have problems with gambling. Nelson recently was the lead author on the first paper to use daily fantasy sports player records to understand the distribution and characteristics of typical and atypical daily fantasy sports activity. This important work filled a void of knowledge about this activity that shares many aspects of traditional gambling.

Throughout her career, Nelson has advocated for the field of gambling studies to adopt more rigorous designs, use more valid measures and interpret findings more carefully. The field’s maturation has resulted, in part, from these efforts. She continues to publish novel findings as a lead author that are important for our collective understanding of gambling and disordered gambling. Yet, she simultaneously is working to lift up the next generation of gambling research scientists by providing mentored research experiences that result in high quality publications in esteemed journals.