Gambling across borders

A blog about the productive life of risk

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Canadian experiments

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I’m grateful to Luke Clark for his response to my article in International Gambling Studies.  Luke recently left Cambridge to set up the Centre for Gambling Research at UBC (University of British Columbia). The centre is funded by the Province of BC government and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). For non-Canadian readers, BCLC conducts and manages gambling across the province.

Luke is at the coal face of making a particular funding structure work, trying to put money raised from gambling to good use. His insights are invaluable.

The centre is an example of the blurred boundaries between the gambling industry and government identified as a source of ‘influence and bias’ by Blaszczynski & Gainsbury (2014). According to Griffiths and Auer, ‘It is our experience [in relation to writing consultancy reports rather than research reportds (sic)] that it is work commissioned by government agencies that receives far more scrutiny and criticism than that funded by the gambling industry.’ (2015) Wohl and Wood concur, saying that, ‘From our collective 30 + years of experience, working with all types of funding agencies, the least interference with our research endeavours has come from the gambling industry.’ This point of view was also well represented in Fair Game.

But the interference of government officials in publishing and agenda setting is not an argument for accepting money from industry. On the contrary, it supports the argument that we should be doing more to ensure that these activities are undertaken independently of all beneficiaries of gambling including the industry.

Man-with-electrodes-on-hi-007Luke is wrestling with the thorny question, “What does…‘academic independence’ mean in practice?” The approach that he is developing at UBC is threefold: the research programme is determined by the centre and ‘funding is not tied to any specific projects’. ‘Second, there are no restrictions on publishing, or requirements to submit advanced copies of outputs to any bodies. Third, all outputs from the centre clearly disclose the financial support.’ Able to set the agenda for research, Luke and his colleagues have created a ‘casino lab’, an initiative which failed in the UK. Luke is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that their work will produce findings that will translate into evidence based policy but, ‘on this point, only time will tell’.

Two important experiments are taking place here: the first in machine gambling, the second in research economies. We await the results of both with great interest.

Rebecca Cassidy


Written by samkelly2014

March 24, 2015 at 8:25 am