UofM’s Institute for Gambling Education and Research Receives $1.2M Grant

Sept. 13, 2022 — The University of Memphis Institute for Gambling Education and Research (T.I.G.E.R.) received a $1.2 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (MHSAS) to expand gambling research and treatment services for all Tennesseans.

Gambling for most people does not cause harm to themselves or others. However, more than 200,000 Tennesseans will experience some level of problems due to their gambling and for another 100,000 that level of harm can be diagnosed as a gambling disorder. Each person with a gambling problem will adversely impact six other people. Gambling-related harms include mental health problems, failed businesses, criminal activity, broken families, bankruptcy and suicide.

Gambling continues to grow and nine out of 10 people with a gambling problem never seek treatment. The Tennessee Education Lottery has verified a record $2 billion in revenues last year while an additional $2 billion was wagered in Tennessee on sports events in a single year.

With Dr. James Whelan, psychology professor and Institute director, at the helm, T.I.G.E.R. has earned an international reputation for research on prevention and treatment for gambling disorders since its establishment more than 20 years ago. The partnership with MHSAS has also afforded T.I.G.E.R. the opportunity to maintain a clinic on campus to treat more than 1,000 people whose lives have been significantly harmed by gambling.

“The grant is a game changer for us as it will help us open a second gambling clinic in East Tennessee,” said Whelan. “A good defense is our best offense at this point as gambling disorder symptoms are only increasing with the ubiquity of sports gambling.”

Led by Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Meredith Ginley, the East Tennessee State University clinic will focus its efforts on providing services to those in rural and Appalachian communities while the University of Memphis clinic will focus on ethnic minority and urban communities. Together, these clinics will evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of gambling disorder treatment among historically underserved communities. Both clinics will also cross-train clinical psychology graduate student therapists in telehealth and in-person services.

“In the next five years, our partnership with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will make Tennessee a leader in majoring gambling harms experienced by the people living in our communities,” said Ginley.

Funding will also reinforce treatment through the creation and evaluation of an online portal for gambling assessment and treatment. Research on the online portal will be led by Dr. Rory Pfund, research assistant professor and University of Memphis alumnus.

“Our legislators’ decision to set aside funds for gambling treatment has provided Tennessee with an opportunity to care for those harmed by gambling,” said Whelan. “The Institute for Gambling Education and Research is prepared to take on the responsibility to help. For decades, we have partnered with clients to learn about the uniqueness of gambling as an addiction. In turn, the challenges in the clinic have been the focus in the lab.”

The Institute for Gambling Education and Research began in 1999 with the formation of a gambling clinic and research laboratory. It has developed evidence-based prevention, assessment and treatment for those with gambling problems while treating more than 1,200 individuals with gambling problems and still enrolling. Highly involved in outreach activities at local and national levels, the Institute has built an international reputation for research dedicated to gambling disorder.