Kia ora, folks!
Auckland is green. It is lush. It is leafy. It is vividly, vividly green. Stick a twig in the ground and it grows here.
I am at the Auckland University of Technology city campus, at the International Think Tank on Gambling Research, Policy and Practice. This two-day event is by invitation only and limited to 40 participants from around the globe.
The think tank is the brainchild of Professor Max Abbott, who was recently recognised in New Zealand's 2016 honours list as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
You can read more about Max's work in this edition: Gambling is like rust, it never sleeps.
Think tank a hothouse
Like the rich volcanic soil that feeds the magnificent flora here, the think tank is fertile ground for the ideas and intelligence of the world's leading gambling and public health experts.
Highlights included discussions about:
- the impact of gambling-related harm on individuals and the community
- commonalities in findings from four large longitudinal studies (Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Victoria)
- implications of research findings about treatment.
Several actions emerged from the discussions, two of which I am working on in collaboration with colleagues (a paper about public health discourse and a report on international longitudinal studies).
For me, the think tank was a mainline injection of motivation, energy and knowledge to move the foundation's research program forward.
Sixth International Gambling Conference
The think tank was preceded by Auckland's sixth International Gambling Conference.
This conference is a partnership between the Gambling and Addictions Research Centre at Auckland University of Technology, the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand and Hapai Te Hauora Tapui (Maori Public Health).
It a truly international event with participants from all continents. Keynote speakers included:
- Assistant Professor Darrel Manitowabi (Laurentian University, Ontario) – who spoke about the meaning of Indigenous casinos, particularly from the perspective of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation (Anishinaabeg) in south-central Ontario
- Dr Barry Duncan (therapist and researcher, United States) – who presented on the benefits of systematic client feedback and the importance of alliance and engagement in working with clients and producing positive outcomes
- Professor Stacey Tovino (an expert in the fields of health law and bioethics, and the burgeoning fields of neurolaw and neuroethics) – who discussed how individuals with gambling disorder are treated in a variety of legal contexts in the United States
- Professor Nerilee Hing (Southern Cross University, Australia) – who discussed her foundation-funded research on the stigma associated with problem gambling, including public prejudice, private pain and implications for public health.
Read the presentations of the International Gambling Conference 2016 speakers.
Representatives from Sweden, Finland, the Unites States, South Africa, Canada, France, Norway, Australia and New Zealand presented research papers.
The foundation's chief executive Serge Sardo spoke about the successful Gambling's not a Game education program. I delivered a paper exploring the decline in electronic gaming machine participation and the stable prevalence of problem gambling in spite of this decline.
A cultural feast
The conference days started with warm welcomes from the Maori, Pacifika and Asian communities, including lessons in Tai Chi and much singing and dancing.
Before delivering her presentation, Dr Ulla Romild sang in Swedish, unaccompanied by instruments. This was an unexpected surprise and received a huge round of applause.
The conference is a biennial highlight in the world of gambling research, practice and policy.
Cheers from Auckland