Daniel Williams

University of Sydney Criticised for Accepting Funding from Major Gambling Companies

The latest decision of the University of Sydney to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from gambling and casino juggernauts was frowned upon by some public health experts. The money invested by the world’s biggest gambling names will be used for the university’s new research centre.

Despite the criticism, researchers as well as the university, believe that joining forces with leaders in the gambling and casino industry will help this research centre to conduct more useful research campaigns that would reduce consumer harm.

Earlier this week, the University of Sydney launched its Centre of Excellence in Gambling Research, which was funded by the International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG), receiving $600,000 in the form of funding commitment. While the university described ICRG as an international leader in providing research and education on topics like gambling disorder and responsible gambling, the reality is that some of the biggest gambling and casino companies in the world are the biggest funders of ICRG.

Some of the companies that provide the biggest financial support for ICRG include MGM Resorts International, Caesars Foundation, Bally’s Corporation, DraftKings, FanDuel, Sands Inc, Wynn Resorts, Boyd Gaming Corporation, poker machine distributor IGT, and other major casino and gambling companies. In addition, executives from major US casino resorts are members of ICRG’s board of directors.

In addition to the ICRG funding, the university also shared that the new research centre will be sponsored by Australian betting juggernaut Sportsbet (owned by Flutter), and Entain, which is the entity operating the brands Ladbrokes and Neds in Australia. The amount these companies have invested in the research centre has not been disclosed.

According to the university, having data from gambling companies will help the research teams to deliver more useful information. The University of Sydney also ensured that gambling and casino companies will not be given any opportunity to limit the research or edit the results in any way.

Health Experts Call on University of Sydney to Return Money from Gambling Companies

Despite the university’s assurance, the president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Dr Steve Robson, called for a reconsideration of the funding received from major gambling and casino entities. Robson shared his concerns about the involvement of the gambling industry in research focusing on gambling. He further underlined his concerns by giving as an example the issues arising from cases where tobacco companies fund vaping research, major alcohol producers fund alcohol research, and so on.

Robson is convinced there is a direct link between gambling funding and favourable policy choices. To prove his point, he reminded the university about a 2020 study carrying the name “Measuring Influence: an analysis of Australian gambling industry political donations and policy decisions”. The said study was conducted by Maggie Johnson and Charles Livingston and was published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi, Greens’ senator for New South Wales, also called on the university to give up the money provided by gambling companies, criticising this partnership by calling it “a toxic feature of the broken corporate university model”.

According to a university spokesperson, the educational entity was well aware of the actions it needs to take to prevent conflicts of interest. The spokesperson confirmed that the Human Research Ethics Committee has considered the impact of the research and has approved all studies to be conducted by the university’s new centre.

Prof Sally Gainsbury, leader of the Centre of Excellence in Gambling Research, has also ensured that the partnership with gambling companies will help the centre to turn research findings into useful information, which can help the prevention and reduction of gambling-related harms.

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.

Daniel Williams

Author: Jerry Lewis