New gambling research centre to study psychology of problem gambling

Photo IanMurphy/flickr

Photo IanMurphy/flickr

UBC’s department of psychology will soon be home to a centre for gambling research.

With a $2-million investment from the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) and the B.C. government, the centre will study the psychology of betting and gambling addictions.

“This will be one of a handful of centres worldwide dedicated to research on gambling psychology and problem gambling,” said Alan Kingstone, the head of UBC’s department of psychology, in a press release. “Much of how gambling impacts our brains and behaviour is still a mystery — so there’s a lot of important work to be done on this issue.”

Kingstone sees the centre as a novel opportunity to bring together researchers in this specific field.

“In Canada, I don’t think there’s anything like this,” said Kingstone.

Marsha Walden, the BCLC’s vice-president of strategy, transformation and social responsibility, said she hopes that with the academic credentials of UBC, the new centre will shed light on ways to identify, understand and prevent problem gambling.

Walden said research shows about 4.6 per cent of adults in Canada have some problem related to excessive gambling, with about 0.9 per cent of those categorized as severe cases.

The centre, which will be headed by an expert to be hired by the UBC psychology department, would add to current research on related topics such as judgment, decision-making and the effect of rewards.

Walden said that the centre will operate with complete academic independence from BCLC, whose involvement will be limited to one position on a steering committee.

While the BCLC has no further financial commitment, Kingstone said he hopes that the potential success of the centre will encourage future investments.

Michael Souza, a UBC psychology professor looking to start a course on the psychology of gambling, is excited by the potential of the Centre for Gambling Research. “[The] really cool thing about this centre is that it’ll open up even more opportunities for more advanced courses for people who want to study this in more depth,” said Souza.

Souza also sees the centre as a way to bridge the gap between clinical research and practice.

“We don’t want to do work just in a lab for the sake of doing it in a lab, we want it to translate and help people.… It’s all about integration and this is an opportunity to do that in the context of gambling,” said Souza.

But putting research into practice may not be so easy.

While Walden said that the BCLC would consider changing its practices to align with research findings, she also emphasized the academic nature of the research centre.

“This is about learning,” said Walden. “In the same way that there’s academic independence on UBC’s part, there’s also commercial independence on our part. So we will continue to have the right to implement decisions or findings that we see from UBC … in our business as it makes sense.”

The Centre for Gambling Research is scheduled to open this September.

Leave a Reply