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Mike Daube: researchers who accept funding from the gambling industry are ‘knowingly contributing to that industry’s political strategy’

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Mike Daube* spoke recently at the National Association for Gambling Studies Australia (NAGS). Mike is a highly experienced tobacco, alcohol and public health researcher and it’s very interesting to see what message he had for gambling researchers.

In a speech which apparently divided opinion, with some saying that it was ‘the best talk that they had heard at 20 years of gambling conferences’ while others sat stony faced, Mike made eight main points, as well as many astute observations about our field and its failings. I reproduce an edited version of them here, with his permission.

  • First, while there are of course clear differences between gambling and tobacco and alcohol, just as there are between tobacco and alcohol or alcohol and food or any of these and a range of other harmful industries, gambling should not sit apart, has much in common with the others and should learn from them.
  • Second, there is an onus on the public health community to develop an agreed set of policies on gambling – as we have done with tobacco and alcohol – and to work together promoting these to governments and the community. These should be evidence-based, with evidence not only from gambling, but also in the McKinsey phrase, with “logic based on parallel evidence”.
  • Third, gambling researchers should follow the recommendations of Adams, Cassidy, Livingstone, Thomas and others and ensure complete disclosure of all funding and other interests when they publish, comment or advise politicians and other decision-makers.
  • Fourth, there should be a much greater focus on prevention,
    Mike Daube

    Mike Daube

    public policy and obstacles to implementation of that policy. I do not argue against treatment and services for individuals; but that is not prevention; it should not be represented as such; and research or programs in this area should not be used as an excuse for lack of preventive action.

  • Fifth, there should also be a much greater focus on research around the vector of gambling problems – the gambling industry: how it works, how it exercises influence, how it lobbies, how it promotes, how it contributes to political parties and their support groups; how its networks operate; how it funds research and what outcomes there are from this funding; where it does not fund research; how decisions are made in the industry’s favour without transparent processes; who benefits directly and indirectly from the industry’s funding…
  • Sixth, while this may cause discomfort to some here, my view is unequivocally that any researcher who accepts funding from the gambling industry is knowingly contributing to that industry’s promotional and political strategies. Research funding may be hard to obtain; but that applies across any number of other areas where people would not dream of accepting alternative sources of funding. It is more than legitimate to press governments to fund research on gambling. It is, however, not compatible with either independence or public health principles to accept funding that directly or indirectly supports the vector. The evidence from parallel areas as well as this one is absolutely clear: they fund you to serve their interests, not those of the community. I absolutely do not argue against the freedom of researchers to work for the gambling industry – but if you want to do that, you should be clear that you are working in and for that industry, not seeking to sit under the umbrella of academic independence.
  • My seventh theme is that bona fide conferences on gambling research should not accept participants from the gambling industry. At such conferences there may be discussion around possible policy directions, areas in which action from governments may be sought, issues around research into the industry and its practises. These are areas in which gambling industry interests should not be involved. Further, their participation – as we have learned from tobacco, alcohol and food – allows them to skew the discussion and conclusions. They don’t invite us to their strategy meetings – why should we invite them to ours?
  • Eighth, I would argue that bona fide gambling researchers should press governments to establish significant funds for gambling research that are totally independent of any gambling interests (including those government agencies that are themselves involved in gambling).

What do you think of these principles? Can we work together to bring gambling closer to the professional and ethical standards of tobacco and alcohol research?

*Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University and Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and former Director General of Health for WA and Chair of the National Public Health Partnership.

Rebecca Cassidy

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Written by samkelly2014

December 9, 2014 at 10:34 am