Rachel Volberg presented with Lifetime Research Award at the 2021 NCPG Conference

July 21, 2021 -- Amherst, MA

For her contributions spanning more than 35 years in gambling research, Rachel Volberg has been awarded the Lifetime Research Award at the 2021 NCPG National Conference being held in Washington DC. Congratulations, Rachel, on a well-deserved award! 

Rachel's achievement was highlighted in the UMass Amherst's School for Public Health and Health Sciences July Newsletter as well as by UMass Amherst's Associate News Editor Patricia Shillington in the following news report:

UMASS Amherst Research Professor Honored for Lifetime Achievement by National Council on Problem Gambling

Not long after earning her Ph.D. in sociology and losing her brief first job with a software startup that shut down overnight, Rachel Volberg took a chance – on gambling studies, a nearly nonexistent field.

Thirty-five years later, Volberg, research professor in the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health

Sciences, has received the 2021 Lifetime Research Award from the National Council on Problem Gambling. The group’s board of directors voted unanimously to confer the honor after Volberg was nominated by Marlene Warner, executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health.

“This award for research is only bestowed in exceptional times and circumstances, to individuals who exemplify at least 20 years of treatment on behalf of problem gamblers,” the national council states. It’s given “to honor a person for exceptional long-standing achievement in the field of research to assist problem gamblers and their families.”

Volberg’s award was announced Tuesday, July 20, at the council’s annual national conference, which was held virtually. Next year, Volberg will give a keynote talk at the council’s 36th national conference in Boston. Three other Massachusetts organizations or individuals were also recognized at the awards ceremony, which “speaks to the level of gambling-related work that is happening in Massachusetts,” Volberg says.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Enrique Zuniga was honored with the Service Award, the Massachusetts Council of Gaming and Health’s Linh Ho received the Joanna Franklin Annual Award for Direct Service and Plainridge Park Casino was recognized with the Corporate Newsletter Award.

Keith Whyte, executive director of the council, told the conference attendees during the awards ceremony that at one point, Volberg had conducted the majority of problem gambling studies globally. In a letter supporting Volberg’s nomination, Dr. Marc Potenza, professor of psychiatry and director of the Yale Center of Excellence in Gambling, called Volberg a “world-leading epidemiological researcher in this area. Dr. Volberg has made multiple important contributions to the field of gambling research and is considered a leading expert on the epidemiology of gambling disorder.”

For the past seven years, Volberg has been leading unprecedented research about the introduction of casinos in Massachusetts, funded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. This comprehensive series of studies, known as SEIGMA (Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts), is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

“This award is so well-deserved, and we are so proud of her accomplishments,” says Anna Maria Siega-Riz, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. “As a research professor who has published extensively in this area, her contributions and impact to our university and the field have been substantial.”

Volberg, whose first job in the field was to evaluate two treatment programs for problem gamblers in New York state, found an astonishing dearth of research on the topic. In 1988, she was the first investigator to receive funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to examine the prevalence of problem gambling in the U.S.

Volberg became known for her work on gambling prevalence surveys. As a rapid expansion of legal commercial gambling occurred around the world, including lotteries, casinos, electronic gambling machines and online gambling, she had more and more opportunities to conduct prevalence surveys.

“But I also had strong interests in how to best measure these constructs, in the natural course or etiology of the disorder, and in the broader social and economic impacts of gambling legalization,” she said in accepting her award at the virtual conference. “I have been fortunate to have found opportunities to explore all of these areas and more over the past 35 years.”

In addition to her work in Massachusetts, Volberg is part of research teams conducting large-scale studies in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden to understand how people transition into and out of gambling and problem gambling.

Although Volberg never imagined she would become a renowned gambling researcher, the burgeoning field captivated and challenged her. “If you had told me in 1985 that I would be in my 60s and still doing gambling research, I’d have laughed in your face,” she says. “But there was always something intriguing that was coming along – new ways to conduct surveys and measure gambling problems. Learning to do this well was a huge challenge.”

Despite the lifetime award, Volberg has no plans to slow down. “I still have so much work to do,” she says.

Rachel Volberg to present at the IAGR 2021 conference

Jun 29, 2021 -- Amherst, MA.  

Rachel Volberg will be presenting results from collaborative work with gambling researchers from around the world on the development of the world's first Lower-Risk Gambling Guidelines. A short video introduction to her presentation can be found here.

The International Association of Gamblign Regulators 2021 Conference, "Disrupting the Regulator: Sparking innovation in regulatory practice", will be held 12-17 September 2021 in Boston, MA. More information can be found on the conference website:

SEIGMA/MAGIC Research Highlighted in Recent CT Mirror Article

May 18, 2021 -- Springfield, MA. Massachusetts' ongoing gambling research, carried out by the SEIGMA and MAGIC teams, is highlighted in a recent article from the CT Mirror entitled "Bay State confronts problem gambling in ways CT does not." Read the full article here

Massachusetts passed casino authorization legislation in 2011 with the first, Plainridge Park Casino, opening in 2015. The casino legislation included a progressive research agenda requiring periodic surveying of the social and economic impacts of gambling in the state. Since 2013, the SEIGMA and MAGIC teams based at UMass Amherst have been tasked with undertaking this crucial research. However, player data collected by the casino operators has yet to be made available to resarchers.

Rachel Volberg, SEIGMA/MAGIC Primary Investigator, sees this an an opportunity for researchers to better understand players' gambling behavior in the hopes of developing advanced tools to help those who may have problems with their gambling.

"As a researcher, frankly, my feeling is that all that data that those operators collect should be turned over to the regulators and made available to researchers to try and figure out what kinds of tools could be developed to help people who are getting into trouble,” Volberg said. “It’s required in the statute in Massachusetts. It hasn’t happened yet.”

No only does Massachusetts have an aggressive reserach agenda, it is also one of the few state regulators which requires a responsible gaming program be present in all the casino properties in the state. In Massachusetts, GameSense helps players understand more about gambling (debunking gambling myths, explaining the odds of the games, etc.) and how to better manage their gambing experience. As Amy Gabrila, a GameSense advisor with the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, explained "The industry is riddled with misinformation ... I"m going to tell you what the truth is. And I hope that makes you more able to make an informed choice." 


MAGIC Webinar -- March 31, 2021

The Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort (MAGIC) study is the first major cohort study of gambling in the United States. The study collected data from the same people at five time points between 2013 and 2019 which spanned the opening of Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield. The SEIGMA/MAGIC team is currently working on a comprehensive report to provide summative findings from all waves of the study.

To disseminate these important findings, the SEIGMA/MAGIC team held a two-hour event from 10am – 12pm on March 31, 2021 to coincide with Problem Gambling Awareness Month. The event began with a one-hour presentation of preliminary findings by MAGIC Co-Principal Investigator, Rob Williams. This presentation was immediately followed by a one-hour panel discussion with invited panelists representing problem gambling research and prevention activities across the Commonwealth and moderated by MAGIC Co-Principal Investigator Rachel Volberg.

A PDF of the presentation can be found here

A video recording of the webinar can be found here

Questions and Answers from the webinar can be found here

March 9th, 2021 is the 8th Annual Gambling Disorder Screening Day

March 09, 2021 -- The SEIGMA project is a proud supporter of the 8th Annual Gambling Disorder Screening Day hosted by the Division on Addiction at the Cambridge Health Alliance. 

Available through the Division on Addiction's website, the Screening Day Toolkit includes many free online tools and resources, including a customizable Screening Day Flyer, the BBGS e-Screener (Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen) and one-page articles, What Is Gambling Disorder? and Why Screen for Gambling Disorder?

We hope you will decide to screen this year and make use of these free, online tools!

Rachel Volberg invited to provide commentary on banking transactions and gambling harms publication

February 4, 2021 -- Rachel Volberg was invited by Nature Human Behaviour to provide an expert commentary on a new publication, led by Naomi Muggleton at the University of Oxford, that uses banking transactions to understand gambling harm. The research publication, "The association between gambling and financial, social and health otucomes in big financial data", was published today in Nature Human Behaviour. Dr Volberg's commentary can be read here

Rachel Volberg invited to serve on inaugural Lancet Public Health Commission on Gambling

January 8, 2021 -- Rachel Volberg has been invited to serve as a member of the newly-formed The Lancet Public Health Commission on Gambling. On January 1, 2021, The Lancet Public Health announced the formation of this commission in an editorial which outlined the need for addressing gambling-related harms through the lens of public health in "response to an urgent, neglected, understudied, and worsening public health predicament". "The Commission will focus on the political and corporate determinants of harm, the epidemiology of gambling harms, including examining inequalities, interventions to reduce harms, and critical appraisal of regulatory, political, and public health responses to gambling." Dr. Volberg will serve on the Commission for 2 years. The full editorial can be read here with commentary here

Dr. Volberg's participation in this Commission has also been profiled by UMass Amherst's School of Public Health and Health Sciences News. Read the full story here.  

UMass Amherst reports Encore construction spending stayed local

December 24, 2020 -- Everett, MA. The Everett Independent reported on the Encore Boston Harbor construction report SEIGMA's Rod Motamedi presented to the MGC during an Open Meeting on December 17, 2020. Read the full article here

Development of the Gambling Disorder Identification Test: Results from an international Delphi and consensus process

November 21, 2020 -- Rachel Volberg co-authored a new publication in the International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research entitled "Development of the Gambling Disorder Identification Test: Results from an international Delphi and consensus process". To address the overarching issue of variations of measures in gambling treatment studies, an expert committee of gambling researchers convened in 2004 at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute's 3rd Annual Conference, an annual independent gambling conference in Banff, Canada. The result, known as the Banff consensus agreement, was a major step forward in the conceptualization of a framework for minimal features of treatment outcome measures. From this, a process was initiated to develop the Gambling Disorder Identification Test (GDIT), as an instrument analogous to the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test and the Drug Use Disorders Identification Test. The current publication provides preliminary construct and face validity for the GDIT. Full-text of the article can be accessed here

SEIGMA Public Research Day Webinar - October 14, 2020

If you were unable to attend our 2020 Public Research Day Webinar, please find the presenation and video files below: 

Presentation (PDF)

Webinar Video (YouTube)

Executive summaries and full reports will be published to the SEIGMA website after having completed their full review at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.