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Funding Dispute Surrounds University of Sydney's Gambling Research

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The University of Sydney's recent announcement regarding the establishment of the Centre of Excellence in Gambling Research has stirred up controversy due to the significant financial support it has garnered from gambling entities and affiliated organizations, amounting to a staggering AU$800,000 (US$511,676).

Balancing Industry Ties and Research Goals

The primary objective of this new research center is to delve into the intricacies of gambling behavior and devise strategies to mitigate its harmful effects. However, the involvement of major gambling operators as partners has triggered concerns about potential conflicts of interest, raising questions about the impartiality and credibility of the forthcoming research.

This partnership brings together prominent players in the gambling industry, enabling real-time experiments and interventions aimed at combating problem gambling. While this approach is seen by some as a promising means of generating effective harm reduction methods, skeptics within the academic community have raised red flags about the objectivity of research that relies on funding from the very entities being studied.

The International Centre for Responsible Gaming (ICRG), a major contributor, has committed AU$ 600,000 over a span of three years. However, the ICRG itself obtains financial backing from various gambling and resort establishments, prompting critics to cast doubts on the independence and integrity of the research that the new center will conduct.

Entain, the parent company of Ladbrokes and Neds, will contribute AU$180,000, while other key players such as Sportsbet and the Australian Research Council's Life Course Centre have pledged AU$50,000 and AU$100,000, respectively.

Sally Gainsbury, the lead researcher overseeing the operations of the new gambling research center, remains optimistic about the potential of this partnership to transcend limitations faced by prior studies. Gainsbury hopes that this collaboration will yield fresh insights, gaming regulations, and innovative strategies to address the harmful consequences of gambling.

Experts Raise Alarms

However, experts in the field, including Samantha Thomas from Deakin University, have raised concerns about the implications of the partnership. Thomas contends that industries that are inherently detrimental to public health and simultaneously driven by profit motives should be entirely excluded from both research initiatives and policy development.

Thomas expressed her reservations, stating, "Industries that contribute to harming the health of the public but also have a clear profit motive should have no role at all in research or policy development."

Despite assurances from the University of Sydney's ethics committee, critics like Thomas argue that the only way to uphold true independence and integrity in research related to industries with a clear vested interest is to sever all ties between research funding and these industries.

As the Centre of Excellence in Gambling Research sets out on its mission to explore and combat the adverse effects of gambling, it faces an uphill battle in proving its objectivity and credibility amid the ongoing debate over the appropriateness of its financial backers.

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