The key to conquering problem gambling is research, so that the local government can understand what steps need to be taken in order to ensure that local residents keep their gambling spending under control. Clubs NSW aims to help in this endeavour by making a $1.2 million donation to fund a three-year problem gambling study – but responsible gambling lobbyists believe that there is a hidden agenda behind the generous action.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the study is aimed to learning more about ‘real-life problem gambling’. Researchers will travel to local pokie clubs across New South Wales to study gamblers in a real environment. Most gambling studies use simulated games that are not located in clubs, so this study will get a unique look at gambling in actual clubs.

Senator Nick Xenophon is sceptical about the donation and the study. He believes that the donation has been given to the University of Sydney in order to stall the implementation of pokie reform measures. While ClubsNSW Chief Executive Anthony Ball states that the organisation will not have any influence on the results, Xenophon is more worried about the overall purpose of the study.

The Gaming Technologies Association will also help fund the research project. Pokie manufacturers like Aristocrat, Bally Technologies and IGT are a part of this group, so it further causes concern for the independent MP. “This is a bit like the tobacco lobby funding cancer research”, he says. Professor Alex Blaszczynski will lead the research.

He has voiced his opposition to the current pokie reform laws, and states that the study does not have an ulterior motive. He states that this is the most effective way to get to the bottom of the issue: “You do have to start looking at gaining access to data held by the industry, by patrons who are in industry venues and start looking at real life research that provides sensible, evidence-based information,'' he said.