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Gambling harm minimisation

Reducing the impact of problem gambling 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 research is fully integrated with our Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic, where we provide real help to more than 550 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. We can test the efficacy of new treatments in a clinical setting in real time. This integration means we can roll out the best new strategies to the broader community as quickly as possible. 

Our 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. Wer conduct a variety of research projects with oportunities for postgraduate students where possible to increase capapcity for evidence-based policies and practises to reduce harms.

Our research has led to new, more effective treatments and contributes to policy and strategy including how governments think about and regulate gambling, how industry implements sustainable harm-minimisation practices and how a range of stakeholders measure and conceptualise gambling-related harm. We prioritise research which has strong implications to impact policy and practice in a meaningful way. Our research team actively engage with stakeholders including end-users throughout all stages of our research.

Research Priorities

Our team research priorities include:

  • Understanding how new technology is transforming gambling and other risk-related behaviours and can be used to prevent and minimise gambling harms
  • Designing low-risk gambling environments through modifications to products and AI-driven/operator initiated consumer protection tools and interventions
  • Evidence-based education and outreach with a broad variety of professionals and organisations to reduce stigma around gambling-harms, enhance early identification, and drive engagement with consumer protection tools and interventions particularly among at-risk groups
  • increasing screening and refferals to gambling interventions by health care and social assitance programs
  • Investigating new ways of conceptualising and measuring gambling harms and recovery from gambling and other behavioural addictions
  • Establishing and evaluating gambling treatments and interventions including the intergration of technology and stepped-care for help accross the continuum of gambling harms

Recently completed projects

An empirical evaluation of a novel self-exclusion program that allows individuals with gambling problems to ban themselves from multiple gambling venues simultaneously. We collect data from self-exclusion users at regular intervals over a two-year period starting from when they first enter the program. This longitudinal study design allowed us to track participants' gambling behaviour and symptoms, and general wellbeing at different stages of self-exclusion.

In a related project, we developed and evaluated a website that enables individuals who are experiencing gambling harms to self-exclude from multiple gambling venues using a personal Internet device, and without needing to attend an in-person meeting with venue staff or a counsellor. Online self-enrolment is expected to enhance self-exclusion uptake and subsequently reduce gambling-related harms.

Researchers: Dr. Dylan Pickering, Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Professor Sally Gainsbury, Anastasia Serafimovska, and Sujeong Cho

Funding: ClubsNSW; NSW Office of Responsible Gambling 


In a collaborative project with scholars from Cambridge Health Alliance Division on Addiction at Harvard University and the University of Nevada Las Vegas we are exploring the uptake of open science (i.e., transparent research practices) within the field of gambling studies. The research includes 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. We further are evaluating 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:  Professor Sally Gainsbury, Dr. Robert Heirene (Charles Darwin University), Dr. Brittany Keen, Professor Debi LaPlante (Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance), Dr. Eric Louderback (Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance), Professor Bo Bernhard (University of Nevada Las Vegas)

Funding: Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance


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 in 2020 over time in the context of its financial and psychological effects.

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


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) on players 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, Georgia Grattan

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. Studies were pre-registered


Various projects conducted to understand the impact of emerging technologies on risk-taking behaviour and behavioural addictions, including gambling and gaming disorder. Previous stages of this work included investigating how use of various websites (e.g., offshore gambling sites) is related to taking risks and experiencing harms.

Researchers: Professor Sally Gainsbury, Emeritus Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Dr. Brett Abarbanel (University of Nevada Las Vegas)

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


We completed a systematic review which determined that recovery from a gambling problem is conceptualised as a multifaceted process. Results from the systematic review, as well as interviews with individuals seeking treatment for gambling problems helped inform the development of the Recovery Index for Gambling Disorder (RIGD). This measure underwent empirical validation and can be used by clinicians and researchers to track an individual's recovery status over six key dimensions.

Researchers: Dr. Dylan Pickering

Publications: Please contact Dr. Pickering if you are interested in using the RIGD measure in your clinic or researcher centre.

This multi-phase project developed and evaluated a website enabling individuals to self-exclude from multiple gambling venues using a personal Internet device without needing to attend an in-person meeting with venue staff or a counsellor. The ease and convenience of web-based self-enrolment is expected to enhance self-exclusion uptake and subsequently reduce gambling-related harms. The study included 1) qualitative focus groups and interventions with gambling help counsellors, venue staff, government policy makers, and individuals with lived experience of gambling problems, and 2) evaluation of a pilot website.

Our findings support progressing web-based self-exclusion toward implementation, with ongoing performance monitoring and evaluation.

Researchers: Dr. Dylan Pickering, Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Ms. Anastasia Serafimovska, Ms. Sujeong Cho,  Professor Sally Gainsbury

Funding: NSW Office of Responsible Gambling



This extensive project involved the use of mixed methodologies to empirically evaluate a novel self-exclusion program that allows people experiencing gambling problems to ban themselves from multiple gambling venues simultaneously.

The studies conducted for this project included in-depth semi-structured interviews, online retrospective surveys, and prospective longitudinal online surveys, with both current and former self-exclusion clients.

The findings across studies were that multi-venue self-exclusion is associated with positive client outcomes in terms of reduced problem gambling symptoms and improved psychosocial functioning and quality of life.

We encourage the use of digital technologies to further improve the efficacy of the multi-venue self-exclusion system, in addition to the ongoing evaluation of client experiences and outcomes

Researchers: Dr. Dylan Pickering, Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Associate Professor Sally Gainsbury
Funding: ClubsNSW


Our team

Dr Lennard Martin

Dylan Pickering

Seungyeon Kim, Thomas Swanton