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SCU researcher takes lead in understanding impact of online gambling


Jane Munro
12 August 2010
Internet gambling is one of the fastest growing forms of gambling in Australia however there is very little known about the social and economic impact of this relatively new and increasingly popular activity.

Southern Cross University post doctoral research fellow Dr Sally Gainsbury has been awarded a $25,000 allied health start-up grant from the Menzies Foundation to begin groundbreaking research into internet gambling in Australia.

Dr Gainsbury said she had decided to conduct this comprehensive research project because she believed there was not a good understanding of the nature and impact of this new form of gambling.

“The internet is increasingly being used for many work, social and entertainment activities and internet gambling is increasing in popularity worldwide. This platform offers potential advantages in terms of responsible gambling strategies and corporate social responsibility for sites that are appropriately regulated. However, there is a lot we don’t know,” Dr Gainsbury said.

“As a clinical psychologist I’m concerned about the impact that internet gambling has on youth and problem gamblers – it is highly accessible, fast, can be played alone, at home, with just a credit card and unregulated sites provide few player protection measures.

“Unregulated, illegal sites may also take players’ money, run games in a fraudulent manner and allow under 18-year-olds to play. The gambling industry is highly regulated in Australia and gambling operators follow strict protocols to provide a safe environment, but illegal internet sites do not have to abide by regulations or pay taxes.

“Although internet wagering and sports betting is legal in Australia, internet casino games, gaming machines and online poker are illegal. These are increasing in popularity, particularly with young adults. It is very difficult for policy makers and industry groups to respond to internet gambling without knowing anything about it.”

A Nielsen online survey from 2008 entitled Australian Internet and Technology Report cited online gambling as one of the top 10 activities conducted online across all age groups and one of the top four online activities for people in ages 35 years and over.

Dr Gainsbury, based at Southern Cross University’s Centre for Gambling Education and Research, will be collaborating with an international team of researchers including Professor Nerilee Hing from Southern Cross University, Professor Alex Blaszczynski from the University of Sydney and Associate Professor Robert Wood from the University of Lethbridge, Canada.

The research will be conducted via an internet survey scheduled to be online in September. In the meantime, Dr Gainsbury is looking to identify relevant organisations with an online profile that could effectively promote the survey to internet gamblers.

“The online survey will be completed by gamblers, including internet gamblers about their gambling behaviour. I am interested in hearing from any individuals or organisations that are interested in being involved in promoting the survey. We are targeting all gamblers, but particularly those who have gambled online in the past 12 months, to be involved by completing the online survey,” Dr Gainsbury said.

“The survey will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes and asks about gambling behaviour, knowledge and attitudes. It is an interactive survey and provides participants with feedback on how their responses compare with responses of other participants that are the same age and gender. This is included to make the survey more interesting and engaging for participants.”

Dr Gainsbury currently holds a Post Doctoral Research Fellowship from the Centre for Gambling Education and Research at Southern Cross University and is a Research Affiliate in the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney. She recently completed a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology and a PhD at the University of Sydney. She is also the Associate Editor for International Gambling Studies, an academic peer-review journal that publishes a multi-disciplinary gambling paper.

For more information or to contact Dr Gainsbury please visit the Centre for Gambling Education and Research online at or email [email protected].

Photo: Southern Cross University post doctoral research fellow Dr Sally Gainsbury has been awarded a $25,000 allied health start-up grant from the Menzies Foundation. Photo courtesy of Menzies Foundation.