GVC is to plow $5 million into a five-year Harvard Medical School research project to investigate the causes and effects of problem gambling.

GVC

Dr. Howard Schaffer of Harvard Medical School will lead research with the help of funding and customer data supplied by GVC. (Image: YouTube)

The UK-based online gaming giant will also provide the school’s Division on Addiction with vast amounts of anonymized player data, collated across the full range of its brands, which include sports betting, online casino and poker products.

The news comes as the online gambling industry in the UK has faced strident criticism for doing too little to tackle problem gambling. Meanwhile, GVC is anxious to win over the hearts and minds of American lawmakers and the public as it seeks to capitalize on newly liberalized US sports betting laws.

In July, GVC announced a joint-venture with MGM to operate and provide online and land-based sports betting in states where it is legal. The company is the owner of Ladbrokes Coral, the UK’s biggest retail bookmaker, as well as the bwin, Sportingbet and partypoker brands.

Must Do Bettor

The research project is a cornerstone of the GVC’s new Changing for the Bettor campaign, and the company says its findings will be used to launch a global advertising campaign to promote responsible gambling.

The research will focus on identifying patterns of gambling behavior in the data provided, with the ultimate goal of evaluating the effectiveness of GVC’s algorithms used to detect at-risk behavior and other responsible gambling tools currently in use.

 “It is only by taking an evidence-based approach to examining gambling that we can develop better strategies and tools to limit its potential to cause harm,” said Dr. Howard Shaffer, Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Field of Behavioural Sciences at Harvard Medical School and director of its Division on Addiction.

“The collaboration with GVC that we have announced today will play a significant role in advancing our knowledge about gambling and intemperate gambling and is warmly welcomed.”

Bad Reputation

There is increasing pressure on the UK’s gambling industry to clean up its image. The perception that it has been shirking its social responsibilities has led directly to a tightening of regulatory controls which will almost certainly restrict the growth of the industry and inhibit innovation.

In December, GVC initiated the discussion that eventually led the industry to adopt a self-imposed ban on gambling advertising around televised sports in the UK, which will come into force later this year. This week, the company announced it would double the amount it donates each year to general problem gambling research, education, and treatment, to 0.2 percent of its gross gaming revenue.

UK Minister for Sport and Civil Society Mims Davies said in an official statement that she welcomed GVC’s approach.

“Research is essential to progress in this area and GVC’s Changing for the Bettor campaign will make an important contribution to tackling problem gambling,” Davies said. “We are committed to protecting consumers across the country and are working with industry to create a healthy and more socially responsible sector.”