Slot machines

Gambling harm minimisation

Reducing the impact of gambling harms in the community

We collaborate with communities, industry partners, government, community groups and treatment providers to apply our research in the real world, through policy and practice.

About our research

Community engagement and impact

Our world-leading research aims to use knowledge gained from the nexus with clinical expertise to lead to new, more effective prevention, harm minimisation and treatment approaches. We share our research broadly to ensure it contributes to policy and practice including how governments think about and regulate gambling, how industry implements sustainable harm-minimisation practices, and to assist stakeholders in understanding and developing strategies to reduce gambling-related harm. We prioritise research which has strong dissemination and implementation-ready outcomes to influence policy and practice in a meaningful way. Our research team actively engage with stakeholders throughout all stages of our research including community members, gambling consumers, and individuals with lived experience of gambling harms.

Our research is fully integrated with our Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic, where we provide real help to more than 1000 people with gambling problems each year. This community cohort allows us to trial new, state-of-the-art treatments and prevention strategies to the people who need them most including preventing harms before they become severe. We can test the efficacy of new interventions with a relevant population. This integration means we can roll out the best new strategies to the broader community as quickly as possible. 

Our undergraduate and postgraduate research program provides unique opportunities for research students to gain real-world experience as they study. At the same time, our research and clinical insights are quickly transferred to graduates who can go on to practise in a wide variety of settings outside the University of Sydney.

Research Priorities

Our team research priorities include:

  • Understanding how new technology (e.g., online gambling, digital payment systems, behavioural tracking) is transforming gambling and other high-risk behaviours including how technology can be used to minimise harms;
  • Strategies to prevent gambling problems online and in venues including encouraging all gambling customers to use tools and resources to reduce the risk of experiencing harms and encourage sustainable and lower-risk gambling;
  • Establishing and evaluating gambling treatments and interventions  including digital and scalable stepped-care resources and tools to assist people in taking appropriate action before gambling harms become severe; and
  • Increasing awareness of gambling-related harms among relevant health and welfare professionals as well as financial institutions and encouraging screening and referral to relevant interventions.

How we conduct our research

We believe that it is critical to engage with all stakeholders to bring about changes which will meaningfully reduce gambling-related harms. Furthermore, it is not possible to evaluate interventions and practices for gambling in a simulated setting. As such, we work with consumers, treatment and community organisations, government-based regulators and policy advisors, and the gambling industry. This includes partnership, in-kind and direct research funding, and access to de-identified data. To reduce any perceived conflicts of interest, we follow strict protocols to protect the integrity of all research conducted. This includes:

  • We adhere to the University of Sydney’s strict policy of academic research integrity.
  • All our researchers must abide by the University’s Research Code of Conduct, the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and relevant legislation and regulations; this includes declaring and managing all external interests, in line with the University’s policies and processes.
  • All our research has approval from the University’s Human Research Ethics Committee, which includes consideration of the research impact.
  • We use open science practices to ensure transparency and sharing of research methods and outcomes, including pre-registration of studies.
  • Our research contracts ensure all our research is conducted independently; results can be published without interference; and funding bodies are prevented from involvement in the design, conduct or outcomes of the research including preventing access to collected data and data analysis.
  • Our partnerships with industry provide much-needed funding for research to inform lower-risk gambling policies and practices; allow in situ trials of interventions; access to data sets and participants to reduce real-world harms; and help ensure our research is implementation-ready and relevant to national policy and practice.
  • We regularly work with relevant government regulators and update them on our research projects.
  • An independent expert advisory committee oversees our research; a consumer advisory committee has been established to further ensure all our research is in the public benefit and contributes to the aim of reducing harm and enhancing safer gambling policies and practices. 
  • We are open to conversations with all relevant stakeholders. 

Gambling Treatment & Research Clinic Internship

Thank you for your interest in undertaking a research internship within the Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic (GTRC) within the School of Psychology and Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney.

The purpose of our internship program is to provide highly motivated and talented students the opportunity to gain advanced research experience and supervision to enhance their research skills and knowledge. It is intended that interns make a positive contribution during their time at the GTRC and ideally generate a research output.

We are looking for motivated and enthusiastic individuals who have some relevant research or related experience. These attributes ensure that interns are able to make meaningful contributions to research projects while working in a collaborative environment both under supervision and independently.

To assess your readiness to work on the relevant projects and your suitability for this role, we have developed a task that we would like you to complete after we receive your initial application. Following this task, we may invite you to participate in an interview via Zoom or in-person.

  • At least 2 years of completed psychology training at a tertiary institution
  • At least two days per week for a semester (four months), OR full-time availability for a minimum of two months
  • Ability to be on campus at the University of Sydney for the duration of the internship

To submit an initial application, please send the following to Sally Gainsbury:

  • Cover letter indicating: a) your previous research experience; b) your motivation in seeking an internship with the GTRC, including what you hope to gain from the experience; c) the type of contributions you think you can make to the GTRC during the internship, and d) the dates that you hope to start and finish the internship and your availability during this timeframe.
  • CV/resume, which includes your research abilities (e.g., the types of analyses and methodologies in which you are proficient).

Please note that no support is available for VISA applications and no funding or financial support is provided for these positions.

Our current projects

As digital payments increase in popularity this research seeks to understand how cashless gambling environments, including venues, impact customer spend. Account-based payments provide the ability to track and be notified of spend, set limits, and take breaks which may be impactful harm-minimisation tools. We are working with various stakeholders to explore the impact of cashless gambling on harms.

Current projects include working on a trial of cashless technology with Liquor & Gaming NSW and ALH Group and a study to understand customer preferences with West HQ.

Recently completed projects include Tom Swanton’s PhD project including a systematic review, focus groups to understand consumer attitudes towards cashless payments, and an experimental study to assess consumer preferences for an account-based payment system. Funding was provided by NSW Office of Responsible Gambling.

Researchers:  Professor Sally Gainsbury, Thomas Swanton,  Professor Ellen Garbarino, Professor Sharon Collard (Bristol University), Associate Professor Daniel Gozman


  • Swanton, T. B., Tsang, S., Collard, S. B., Garbarino, E., & Gainsbury, S. M. (2023). Cashless gambling: Qualitative analysis of consumer perspectives regarding the harm minimization potential of digital payment systems for electronic gaming machines. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
  • Gainsbury, S.M., & Blaszczynski, A. (2020). Digital gambling payment methods: Harm-minimization policy considerations. Gaming Law Review.
  • Swanton, T.B., & Gainsbury, S.M. (2020). Gambling-related consumer credit use and debt problems: A brief review. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 31, 21-31.
  • Swanton T.B., Gainsbury, S.M., & Blaszczynski, A. (2019). The role of financial institutions in gambling. International Gambling Studies, 19, 377-398.
  • Gainsbury, S.M., Tobias-Webb, J., & Slonim, R. (2018). Behavioural economics and gambling: A new paradigm for approaching harm-minimization. Gaming Law Review, 22(10)

Preventing the experience of severe gambling-related harms would be highly beneficial for individuals, their families, and the broader community. There has been minimal research to understand what tools and resources can help those who choose to gamble do so in a sustainable and lower risk way. Resources need to be developed for specific populations for example based on age and participation in different gambling activities (e.g., online sports betting vs. pokies). Digital resources are scalable, reaching a broad population, and can be accessed in private in a convenient and time-relevant manner.

Resources being investigated include:

  • A digital decision-aid to assist individuals in evaluating their own gambling and related consequences to determine whether they need to consider changing their behaviours
  • Tailored feedback for individuals providing information about their gambling in relation to self-referential and social norms
  • Multimedia resources to provide psychoeducation and cognitive redirection to assist people in understanding gambling activities
  • Targeted real-time messages delivered to individual customers triggered by behavioural indicators of high-risk gambling

Researchers:  Professor Sally Gainsbury, Dr. Elizabeth Stratton, Professor Nicolas Glozier, Dr. Christopher Hunt, Associate Professor Simon Rodda, Dr. Dilushi Chandrakumar, Dr. Louise Thornton


  • Swanton, T. B., Blaszczynski, A., Forlini, C., Starcevic, V., & Gainsbury, S. M. (2021). Problematic risk-taking involving emerging technologies: A stakeholder framework to minimize harms. Journal of Behavioral Addictions9(4), 869-875.
  • Gainsbury, S. M., Black, N., Blaszczynski, A., Callaghan, S., Clancey, G., Starcevic, V., & Tymula, A. (2020). Reducing internet gambling harms using behavioral science: A stakeholder framework. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, Article 598589.

Consumer protection tools aim to increase the ability for customers to gamble in a sustainable way and manage their gambling such as the ability to set limits on gambling expenditure, player activity statements that summarise recent gambling activity, and time-outs which enable gamblers to temporarily block access to their gambling accounts. This project aims to evaluate current practices related to consumer protection tools online and in venues and investigate the uptake and effect of these.  The research includes survey, trials of various interventions including customised real-time messages triggered by behavioural risk indicators, and analysis of customer data. 

Researchers:  Professor Sally Gainsbury, Professor Agnieszka Tymula, Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, Dr Jonathan Levy, Dr. Robert Heirene, Dr. Louise Thornton, Dr. Elizabeth Stratton, Teejay Santos

Funding: Sportsbet, Entain, Brain and Mind Centre, Life Course Centre (ARC CRE), International Center for Responsible Gaming


  • Heirene, R. M., Gainsbury, S. M. (2021) Encouraging and evaluating limit-setting among on-line gamblers: a naturalistic randomized controlled trial. Addiction, 116: 2801–2813.
  • Heirene, R. M., Vanichkina, D. P., & Gainsbury, S. M. (2021). Patterns and correlates of consumer protection tool use by Australian online gambling customers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 35(8), 974–984.
  • Heirene, R., Gainsbury, S. (2020). How can we improve consumer protection in online gambling? International Association of Gaming Regulators. [More Information]
  • Gainsbury, S.M., Angus, D.J., Procter, L. et al. Use of Consumer Protection Tools on Internet Gambling Sites: Customer Perceptions, Motivators, and Barriers to Use. J Gambl Stud 36, 259–276 (2020).
  • Procter, L., Angus, D.J., Blaszczynski, A., & Gainsbury, S.M (2019). Understanding use of consumer protection tools among Internet gambling customers: Utility of the Theory of Planned Behavior and Theory of Reasoned Action. Addictive Behaviors, 99.
  • Gainsbury, S.M., Abarbanel, B.L.L., Philander, K.S. et al. Strategies to customize responsible gambling messages: a review and focus group study. BMC Public Health 18, 1381 (2018).

Gambling regulators internationally are increasingly requiring gambling operators identify and intervene with individuals exhibiting signs of gambling problems. However, limited research is available to inform efforts to identify customers with gambling problems and particularly those experiencing lower levels of harm who would benefit from modifying their behaviour to reduce potentially problematic outcomes. This research aims to analyse customer account data provided from industry operators and identify account-based markers of gambling harms.

Access to large customer datasets will enable a broad range of research questions to be addressed focusing on understanding gambling behaviour to drive policies and practices to reduce gambling harm.

Researchers:  Professor Sally Gainsbury, Professor Agnieszka Tymula, Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, Dr Robert Heirene

Funding:  Entain, Life Course Centre (ARC CRE), International Center for Responsible Gaming, West HQ 

Problem gambling is highly related to social and economic disadvantage and involves decision-making and highly biased thinking patterns leading to risky behaviours. This project aims to further our understanding of the role of self-control and the impact of gambling outcomes (i.e., wins and losses) in gambling decisions as well as the customer’s ability to make informed choices. We will also look at the interrelation with socioeconomic disadvantage by considering differences between individuals across regional settings.

Researchers:  Professor Sally Gainsbury, Professor Agnieszka Tymula, Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, Dr Jonathan Levy

Funding:  Entain, Life Course Centre (ARC CRE), West HQ 


  • Heirene, R. M., Wang, A., & Gainsbury, S. M. (2022). Accuracy of self-reported gambling frequency and outcomes: Comparisons with account data. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 36(4), 333–346.

Recently completed projects

The GTRC is building upon existing relationships with Aboriginal services to engage elders as peer-support workers to provide ongoing support throughout the referral and treatment process. This promotes engagement in therapy among attendees and builds the peer-support worker’s knowledge of therapeutic process, enhancing their capacity to discuss this within their community and enhance referrals. 

Funding: NSW Office of Responsible Gambling

Researchers: Dr. Christopher Hunt, Kirsten Shannon, Professor Sally Gainsbury

Venue staff training in responsible gambling is a strategy adopted by many gaming providers to help prevent or reduce potential gambling-related harms. Research on existing venue staff training suggest methods in place do not assist in increasing staff members' ability to proactively interact with customers who show early warning signs of distress. Training does, however, increase staff members knowledge of what signs of problem gambling look like and, therefore, increase their ability to identify customers who might be at risk. The GTRC worked with the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling to capitalise on the strengths of existing staff training programs and teach enhanced skills to proactively intervene with customers showing potential warning signs. The GTRC comprehensively evaluated the implementation of the program and assessing the full impact of the training on venue staff members and customers. Working with the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling, the new staff training program has now been rolled out across venues in NSW to improve staff ability to proactively identify and intervene when gambling harms are identified.

Researchers: Emeritus Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Kristin Economou, Professor Sally Gainsbury, Dr. Dylan Pickering, Jay Robinson

Funding: NSW Office of Responsible Gambling, ClubsNSW


  • Michelle Beckett, Brittany Keen, Douglas J. Angus, Dylan Pickering & Alex Blaszczynski (2020) Responsible gambling staff training in land-based venues: a systematic review, International Gambling Studies, 20:2, 331-367, DOI: 10.1080/14459795.2020.1737723
  • Beckett, Michelle & Keen, Brittany & Swanton, Thomas & Blaszczynski, Alex. (2020). Staff Perceptions of Responsible Gambling Training Programs: Qualitative Findings. Journal of Gambling Studies. 36. 10.1007/s10899-019-09874-9

Measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) resulted in the mass closure of gambling venues and cancellation of major sporting events, leaving limited opportunities for gambling. COVID-19 left many Australians without jobs or with reduced incomes. Situations of economic hardship, social isolation, and increased psychological distress combined with the closure of gambling venues may have a significant impact on gambling and related problems in Australia. This study aimed to understand the impact of the shutdown on gambling over time in the context of its financial and effects.

Researchers: Associate Professor Sally Gainsbury, Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Thomas Swanton, Dr Martin Burgess, Dr Nicola Black


  • Gainsbury, S., Swanton, T., Burgess, M., Blaszczynski, A. (2021). Impacts of the COVID-19 Shutdown on Gambling Patterns in Australia: Consideration of Problem Gambling and Psychological Distress. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 15(6), 468-476. [More Information]
  • Black, N., Swanton, T., Burgess, M., Gainsbury, S. (2022). Impact of Gambling Supply Reduction During COVID-19 Shutdowns on Gambling Problems and Gambling Behaviour in Australia: A National Longitudinal Study. Journal of Gambling Studies, 38(2), 353-365. [More Information]
  • Swanton, T., Burgess, M., Blaszczynski, A., Gainsbury, S. (2021). An exploratory study of the relationship between financial well-being and changes in reported gambling behaviour during the COVID-19 shutdown in Australia. Journal of Gambling Issues, 2021 (48), 136-157. [More Information]

Electronic gaming machines have been developed that incorporate elements of skill borrowed from video games within random chance mechanics of gaming machine. Not currently regulated to be provided in Australia, these are available in some U.S. jurisdictions and aim at attracting a new market, including younger players and consumers that enjoy playing video, mobile and online games. Research aimed to determine the impact of skill-based gambling machines (SGMs) including the extent to which players understand the role of skill vs. chance, which consumers might be interested in these, the impact on gambling-related cognitions and behaviours and the impact on gambling harms. Completed research studies include: 1) a survey of online U.S.-based participants; 2) a survey of participants from U.S. casinos who have played skill-based gambling machines; 3) experimental studies, focus groups, and cognitive interviews (talking aloud while playing) of Australians within a laboratory at USyd using SGMs and EGMs.

Researchers:  Professor Sally Gainsbury, Dr. Kahlil Philander, Washington State University, Professor Alex Blaszczynski

Funding: In-kind support for US casino research provided by GameCo. Funding for USyd trials received from Wymac Gaming Solutions. Permission to use EGMs for research provided by Liquor & Gaming NSW


  • Pickering, D., Philander, K.S. & Gainsbury, S.M. Skill-Based Electronic Gaming Machines: a Review of Product Structures, Risks of Harm, and Policy Issues. Curr Addict Rep 7, 229–236 (2020).
  • Paul Delfabbro, Daniel King & Sally M. Gainsbury (2020) Understanding gambling and gaming skill and its implications for the convergence of gaming with electronic gaming machines, International Gambling Studies, 20:1, 171-183, DOI: 10.1080/14459795.2019.1662824
  • Gainsbury, S.M., Philander, K.S. & Grattan, G. Predicting Intention to Play Random and Skill-based Electronic Gambling Machines Using the Theory of Reasoned Action. J Gambl Stud 36, 1267–1282 (2020).
  • Sally M. Gainsbury, Kahlil S. Philander & Georgia Grattan (2020) Skill gambling machines and electronic gaming machines: participation, erroneous beliefs, and understanding of outcomes, International Gambling Studies, 20:3, 500-514, DOI: 10.1080/14459795.2020.1828991
  • Gainsbury SM, Philander KS. Short-term cognitive impacts of electronic gaming machines with and without a skill-based component: A comparative laboratory study. Front Psychiatry. 2022 Aug 26;13:979694. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.979694. PMID: 36090360; PMCID: PMC9462663.
  • Philander KS, Gainsbury SM. Overconfidence in Understanding of How Electronic Gaming Machines Work Is Related to Positive Attitudes. Front Psychol. 2021 Jan 12;11:609731. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.609731. PMID: 33510686; PMCID: PMC7835891.
  • Gainsbury, S. M., & Philander, K. S. (2020, January 9). Skill gambling machines and electronic gaming machines: Irrational cognitions and understanding of the role of skill.
  • Gainsbury, S. M., Blaszczynski, A., Professor, & Philander, K. S. (2020, September 21). Exploring consumers’ perceptions of skill-gambling machines (SGMs) and standard electronic gaming machines (EGMs) in Australia: A protocol for a random-allocation between groups laboratory experiment.

Various projects conducted to understand the impact of emerging technologies on risk-taking behaviour and behavioural addictions, including gambling disorder.

Researchers:  Professor Sally Gainsbury, Professor Thorsten Teichert, Dr. Brett Abarbanel, Professor Alex Blaszczynski,

Funding: Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award to Dr. Gainsbury


  • Thorsten Teichert, Alexander Graf, Thomas B. Swanton & Sally M. Gainsbury (2021) The joint influence of regulatory and social cues on consumer choice of gambling websites: preliminary evidence from a discrete choice experiment, International Gambling Studies, 21:3, 480-497, DOI: 10.1080/14459795.2021.1921011
  • Kuss, D. and Gainsbury, S. (2021), Debate: Behavioural addictions and technology use – risk and policy recommendations for problematic online gambling and gaming. Child Adolesc Ment Health, 26: 76-77.
  • Nong, Z, Gainsbury, S. Website design features: Exploring how social cues present in the online environment may impact risk taking. Hum Behav & Emerg Tech. 2020; 2: 39–49.
  • Gainsbury, S.M., Angus, D.J. & Blaszczynski, A. Isolating the impact of specific gambling activities and modes on problem gambling and psychological distress in internet gamblers. BMC Public Health 19, 1372 (2019).
  • Gainsbury SM, Abarbanel B, Blaszczynski A. The Relationship Between In-Play Betting and Gambling Problems in an Australian Context of Prohibited Online In-Play Betting. Front Psychiatry. 2020 Oct 23;11:574884. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.574884. PMID: 33192709; PMCID: PMC7644858.
  • Gainsbury, S.M., Abarbanel, B. and Blaszczynski, A. (2019), Factors Influencing Internet Gamblers’ Use of Offshore Online Gambling Sites: Policy Implications. Policy & Internet, 11: 235 253.
  • Baggio, S., Starcevic, V., Studer, J., Simon, O., Gainsbury, S. M., Gmel, G., & Billieux, J. (2018). Technology-mediated addictive behaviors constitute a spectrum of related yet distinct conditions: A network perspective. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 32(5), 564–572.
  • Gainsbury, S. M., & Blaszczynski, A. (2017). Virtual reality gambling: Public Policy Implications for regulation and challenges for consumer protection. Gaming Law Review, 21(4), 314-322.

In a collaborative project with scholars from Harvard University and the University of Nevada Las Vegas we explored the uptake of open science (i.e., transparent research practices) within the field of gambling studies. The first study involved a scoping review of the gambling literature to determine the extent to which open science practices such as pre-registration and data and code sharing have been adopted by gambling researchers to date. In a second study, we evaluated the quality and specificity of pre-registrations of gambling research. From this, we hope to bring attention to value the pre-registering one’s studies, and to highlight the importance of doing this well if wanting to reduce concerns of bias (e.g., p-hacking, HARKing).

Researchers: Dr. Robert Heirene, Professor Sally Gainsbury, Dr. Brittany Keen, Professor Debi LaPlante, Dr. Eric Louderback

Funding: Division on Addictions, Cambridge Health Alliance


  • Heirene, R., LaPlante, D., Louderback, E. R., Keen, B., Bakker, M., Serafimovska, A., & Gainsbury, S. M. (2021, July 16). Preregistration specificity & adherence: A review of preregistered gambling studies & cross-disciplinary comparison.
  • Louderback, E.R., Gainsbury, S.M., Heirene, R.M. et al. Open Science Practices in Gambling Research Publications (2016–2019): A Scoping Review. J Gambl Stud 39, 987–1011 (2023).
  • Robert M. Heirene (2021) A call for replications of addiction research: which studies should we replicate and what constitutes a ‘successful’ replication?, Addiction Research & Theory, 29:2, 89-97, DOI: 10.1080/16066359.2020.1751130
  • Heirene, R., Gainsbury, S. (2020). Can the open science revolution revolutionise gambling research? BASIS. [More Information]

Professor Gainsbury provided an overview of research underway at an event during 2023 GambleAware week