Human and Health Sciences: Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarship: “One More Spin”: Gaming Machines and the Causes of Problem Gambling

Closing date: 22 January 2018

Key Information

Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarships (SURES)

Swansea University is proud to offer 15 fully-funded PhD scholarships for students commencing study in October 2018 or January 2019.

The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of student excellence across a portfolio of 34 potential projects.

Project title: “One More Spin”: Gaming Machines and the Causes of Problem Gambling

Start date: October 2018

Gaming machines (or Fixed Odds Betting Terminals; FOBTs) are a controversial form of gambling. Recently, the Government announced a consultation on proposals to change some of the key features of FOBTs and address social responsibility measures. Central to this debate is the need for high-quality empirical research about how machine-specific game features may contribute to the development of problem gambling. 

The aim of the present proposal is to develop and evaluate FOBT machine features of stake size, spin speed, session displays of “hot” and “cold” numbers, and return to player ratio in non-gamblers, recreational gamblers, and problem gamblers. We will implement simulated casino roulette and three-reel slot machines in our analogue betting shop environment (Swansea University Betting Simulation Lab: SUBETS Lab), measure the bio-behavioural profile of players (using heart rate, skin conductance and facial EMG), conduct longitudinal assessment of the development of gambling related harm and identify which combination of machine features encourage continued play, aggressive behaviour, and ultimately, addiction.

The scholarship holder will avail of, and have access to, state-of-the art behavioural and physiological recording equipment and analysis software housed in the SUBETS Lab for the study of simulated gambling behaviour. The student will use touchscreen simulated roulette and slot machine games, interfaced psychophysiology, and a safe, realistic gambling environment available to participants outside of scheduled testing sessions. This will ensure the bio-behavioural profile observed resembles real-world gambling as closely as possible.

Findings will have implications for Government policy, industry developments of better, safer gaming machines, and for numerous academic and clinical beneficiaries. There will be the potential for a REF impact case study to be developed based on the research (the first supervisor has excellent links with MPs, gave evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs, and regularly appears in the media about gambling related issues). Ultimately, the research will protect players from harm and help to reduce the prevalence of problem gambling and related healthcare costs.

Supervisors / Academic Contacts: Professor Simon Dymond / Dr A Hoon

The successful applicant will have access to our Postgraduate Research Student Training programmes.

Eligibility

Candidates should have (or expect to obtain) a first class honours degree (or equivalent) and/or a master's degree with distinction in a relevant subject area (psychology, behavioural science, behavioural economics, anthropology, computer science or statistics).

Prior experience with the analysis of gambling behaviour or programming language skills would be an advantage. An understanding of behaviour analysis and quantitative analysis models applied to lab-based and real-world gambling is desirable.

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.

Funding

The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £14,553 for 3 years. 

There will also be £1,000 per annum available for research expenses such as travel, accommodation, field trips and conference attendance.

How to Apply

To apply please complete and return the following documents to Dr Vivienne Jenkins (pgrsures@swansea.ac.uk) quoting reference CHHSCi4:

Student applications will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Literary and Academic attainments (60%)
  • Demonstrable esteem indicators i.e. ambassadorial skills, instincts and opportunities to demonstrate leadership, experience and interest in extracurricular and community activities (40%)

Informal enquiries before the deadline are welcome and should be directed to Professor Simon Dymond (s.o.dymond@swansea.ac.uk / +44 (0)1792 295602).