SEIGMA on the Road: Conferences in the Gambling Research Community

Rachel Volberg, Principal Investigator on the SEIGMA study highlights recent visits by the team to gambling research conferences.

The University is very quiet during the summer. However, while many students and staff here are vacationing on the seashore or in the mountains, summer is conference season for the SEIGMA team.  In mid-June, I traveled to Baltimore to present a keynote address at the Second Annual Maryland Conference on Problem Gambling whose theme was “The Impact of Gambling on Public Health.”  In addition to my talk on SEIGMA and its implications for public health, Dr. Timothy Fong presented on the California Gambling Education and Treatment Services (CALGETS) program; Jim Wuelfing from the MA Council on Compulsive Gambling presented on recovery-oriented services and systems of care; and Dr. Deborah Haskins presented on the importance of connecting services to communities of color.  In addition to presenting at the conference, several of the speakers participated in a Stakeholder Forum where staff and researchers from the new Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling discussed the center’s activities and described their plans to create a Gambling Data Mart similar to our Data Management Center.  The conference was capped by the presentation of an award to the family of Joanna Franklin, whose life’s work was training thousands of treatment providers to serve problem gamblers and their families and who sadly passed away unexpectedly last year.  I was glad I brought an extra pack of tissues since there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after the tribute video played.

Later in June, Amanda Houpt, SEIGMA Project Manager, traveled to Kansas City to present on the project at the Eleventh Annual Midwest Conference on Problem Gambling and Substance Abuse whose theme was “Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery in an Era of Change.”  Amanda joined Mark Vander Linden, Director of Research and Problem Gambling at the MA Gaming Commission, to discuss minimizing gambling harm in MA through regulation, research and services.  In addition to presenting, and enjoying some delicious barbecue, Amanda attended many of the other conference sessions. She particularly enjoyed a talk by Dr. Jeff Marotta on a recent survey of state services for problem gamblers because it gave her ideas for refining aspects of SEIGMA’s evaluation of problem gambling services in the state of Massachusetts.

I just returned from the Twenty-Eighth National Conference on Problem Gambling in Orlando, FL whose theme was “Pathways to New Possibilities.”  I presented along with Mark Vander Linden, Marlene Warner from the MA Council on Compulsive Gambling, and Steve Keel from the MA Department of Public Health on the issue of minimizing gambling harm in MA. We made a last minute decision to scrap our slide deck in favor of a moderated panel discussion. This late-game decision proved to be a success as we received a number of thought provoking and challenging questions about our collaboration.  In addition to my session, I really enjoyed reconnecting with colleagues that I only get to see at the national conference, which I have attended regularly since their very first event in 1986. 

And finally, just as summer ends in early September, I will be off to Helsinki and the tenth annual conference of the European Association for Gambling Studies whose theme is “What’s Next? Who’s Next? New Directions in Gaming and Gambling.”  Rob Williams, one of my co-Principal Investigators, will present on the theoretical framework for conducting gambling impact studies and I will present on SEIGMA as an emerging application of the theoretical framework. 

As a researcher, I find conferences to be invaluable opportunities for sharing findings, learning from others, and connecting with future collaborators. Each time, I return re-energized about my work, and this summer is no exception. The SEIGMA team and I have many more conferences lined up for the fall, and we look forward to sharing highlights of their proceedings with you. To facilitate this, we expanded our publications tab to include downloadable PDFs of our presentations. Whatever you have in store for summer, I hope you will take a look.