Daily Archives: July 3, 2008

A classic example of how the casinos can buy anything…including Harvard

The issue of expanding gambling almost always attracts a well-funded campaign of nonacademic disinformation by the gambling industry.  As explained in the Stanford Journal of Law 2003, they routinely use their influence to create studies that don’t have backed university support, that don’t properly provide the numbers behind their research necessary for proper peer review and are produced by biased pro gambling interests. Even with this knowledge and understanding it can be hard to swallow when a major and reputable player in the academic world turns a blind eye to the truth in exchange for an extortionate amount of money.  Bloomberg  News explains:

Howard Shaffer is a researcher at Harvard University, whose $34.9 billion endowment makes it the world’s richest school. His work on gambling addiction is funded instead by dimes and nickels fed into slot machines.

Shaffer and the institute he heads have received $9.1 million in industry money since 1996. The funding is part of a practice of corporate support at Harvard under fire from critics who say industry backing clouds the legitimacy of research.

The important thing to note is that the criticism isn’t just coming from those outside of academia, its coming from those most connected with how research is performed:

Close ties like this with industry can lead to a bias called “the funding effect”, said Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science Project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group, in a June 19 phone interview. “You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

This research is far from academic and harmless.  Shaffer’s biased studies have been used countless times to help the industry expand gambling into new markets:

Critics say Shaffer wins corporate support because his research shows that gambling addiction is rooted in brain chemistry and not casino practices, helping the industry…Since 1996, U.S. states with casinos have doubled to 20 and revenue has climbed from $17.8 billion to $37.5 billion in 2007

The bottom line is that the casinos have no problem trying to buy results, both in research and at election time.  As we enter into a new election cycle with a petition to remove the loss limit nearing the ballot, just remember the lengths casinos are willing to go to manipulate data and get what they want.

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