Probing the psychology of gambling, helping problem gamblers and enhancing gaming policy are key goals for the new Centre for Gambling Research at UBC, which opens today.
The Centre – one of only a handful of such research hubs globally – is headed by leading gambling psychologist Luke Clark, who joined UBC last year from the University of Cambridge.
Established with $2 million in funding from the B.C. government and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), the Centre will operate with complete academic independence from BCLC, the government and the gambling industry.
“Government is committed to responsible gambling in British Columbia,” said Finance Minister Michael de Jong. “The Centre for Gambling Research at UBC is a major new and independent initiative focused on problem gambling. I am confident that the research it produces will have far-reaching benefits both in B.C. and globally.”
“UBC is a leading research facility and one of Canada’s top-ranking universities,” said Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services. “The Centre for Gambling Research will add to UBC’s and British Columbia’s reputation as a place where innovative, cutting edge research is conducted.”
“This facility will transform gambling research in British Columbia,” says Luke Clark, the Centre’s inaugural Director. “Our work will help us better understand the psychology of gambling games and problem gambling, which will bolster UBC’s strengths in addictions research and ultimately result in healthier communities.”
Centre highlights include a “Casino lab,” which hosts slot machines and other games, to measure players’ behavioural and physiological responses under controlled conditions. With these tools, Clark’s team will study the motivations and mindsets that lead to problem gambling.
The Centre’s approach includes measuring heart rates and scanning brain responses in conjunction with the UBC MRI Research Centre. Other collaborations and partnerships are planned at UBC and throughout the province.
Upcoming research projects include in-person interviews with gamblers at Lower Mainland casinos, and recruiting problem gamblers to aid the Centre’s study of decision-making.
Note to editors: Photos of Luke Clark and the centre are available here.
Luke Clark, Director of Centre for Gambling Research, came to UBC in 2014 from the University of Cambridge, where he led the U.K’s largest study of pathological gamblers. His latest paper, which explores the reclassification of “gambling disorder” as part of the guidelines for psychiatric diagnosis, was published in October 2014 in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
The Centre adds to UBC’s internationally recognized expertise in addictions research, including pioneering projects on drug and alcohol addictions.
The funding received to establish the Centre is part of UBC’s start an evolution campaign, Canada’s most ambitious fundraising and alumni engagement campaign, which has raised more than $1.4 billion to date.
“BCLC sees tremendous value in having gambling research conducted locally, and we look forward to the insights we’ll gain from the Centre’s work,” said Jim Lightbody, interim President and CEO, BCLC. “This research will help us enhance our programs so that they are effective in the prevention of problem gambling.”