Gemini Research is one of only a few organizations internationally that specializes in managing and reporting on studies of gambling and problem gambling in the community. Work at Gemini Research is generally conducted under contract or through grants from state, provincial or national government agencies. Projects at Gemini Research have included prevalence surveys as well as projects investigating the social and economic impacts of legal gambling on communities.
Gemini Research offers an unparalleled depth of experience as well as up-to-date knowledge of methodological and theoretical developments in the field of gambling research. Staff at Gemini Research have extensive experience with survey development, questionnaire design and sampling methods as well as statistical analysis and interpretation of survey results. Staff are intimately familiar with the instruments used to assess problem and disordered gambling in clinical settings as well as in surveys, with the procedures necessary to obtain the highest quality data for these surveys, and with the challenges sometimes associated with disseminating information from these studies to multiple audiences.
Dr. Rachel A. Volberg, President of Gemini Research, is a sociologist who has been involved in research on gambling and problem gambling since 1985. Dr. Volberg spent most of her career working as an independent scholar through her consulting business, Gemini Research. Since 2013 she has also been a Research Professor in the School of Public Health & Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr. Volberg has served as a consultant and advisor to governments and private sector organizations in Europe, Asia, and North America on issues of gambling research, policy, and service development. Dr. Volberg is highly published and has engaged in extensive service to the field as an advocate for problem gamblers and their families, as a journal reviewer and editor, and as a mentor of young scholars in the field. In 2021, she was honored with a Lifetime Research Award by the National Council on Problem Gambling. Dr. Volberg is a leading authority in the following areas:
Socioeconomic impacts of gambling
- Principal Investigator on the SEIGMA project since its inception in 2013 as well as leader of the project’s Social Impacts Team. SEIGMA is the world’s longest, best funded, and most comprehensive ongoing study of the social and economic impacts of gambling. Dr. Volberg interacts daily with faculty and staff of the UMass Amherst School of Public Health & Health Sciences, members of the Economic Impacts Team at the UMass Donahue Institute, and sub-contractors and consultants. Dr. Volberg is responsible for communication with the study funder, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, in all areas, including client meetings and consultations, managing external peer review processes, delivering presentations, and conducting media interviews. Dr. Volberg‘s responsibilities include overall leadership and coordination of the full SEIGMA research team and extend to oversight of population and patron survey design, implementation, and analysis. She is the lead on key informant interviews with stakeholders in the host communities and a lead author on all of the SEIGMA Social and Integrative reports and academic publications.
- Co-author of the main research report to the U.S. National Gambling Impact Study Commission, as well as the lead author on a recent comprehensive report on the social and economic impacts of legalized sports betting.
Epidemiology of gambling and problem gambling
- Pioneer in epidemiological research on gambling and problem gambling between 1986 and 1992. Fielded the first surveys that included a validated measure of ‘pathological gambling with funding from NIH and results published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (Volberg & Steadman, 1988) and the American Journal of Public Health (Volberg, 1994).
- Between 1995 and the present, directed 40+ prevalence surveys at the state and provincial level in North America and consulted on national prevalence surveys in Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. This work included surveys of adults, adolescents, and indigenous peoples. Together, these studies contributed to the identification of vulnerable sectors of the population and aided in the efficient deployment of problem gambling prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support services internationally.
- Developed a ‘standardization approach’ to account for differences in methods across gambling surveys. This work enabled comparisons of prevalence rates across surveys and improved understanding of how problem gambling prevalence has changed over time (Williams, Volberg & Stevens, 2012).
Etiology and prevention of problem gambling
- Co-Investigator on the first study of changes in problem gambling status in New Zealand in the mid-1990s (Abbott & Volberg, 1996) and on an NIH-funded study of problem gambling among participants in the Vietnam-Era Twin Registry in the early 2000s (Xian, et al., 2007).
- Principal Investigator of the Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort (MAGIC) study, the only large-scale longitudinal study of gambling in the United States.
- Member of research teams conducting large-scale etiological investigations of gambling and problem gambling in Australia, New Zealand and Sweden. These studies have consistently found that problem gambling is far more labile than previously assumed and underscore the need for a full range of services to prevent people from progressing to more severe problems, to facilitate the movement of people from more extreme to less extreme parts of the problem gambling continuum, and to assist people in maintaining recovery.
Assessment of gambling and problem gambling
- Volberg has engaged in efforts to improve the measurement of problem gambling over the entire course of her career. In the mid-1980s, she was the first researcher to use a validated measure of problem gambling in a population survey. In the mid-1990s, as a Co-Investigator on the national survey funded by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, she worked to develop and validate the NODS, a new screen based on the DSM-IV criteria (Gerstein et al., 1999; Toce-Gerstein, Gerstein & Volberg, 2003).
- Starting in the mid-2000s, Dr. Volberg has worked to improve the measurement of problem gambling by conducting experimental research to better understand the performance of the most frequently used problem gambling screens. These efforts culminated in the development and validation of the PPGM, a new problem gambling measure that is aligned with clinical assessments of the disorder in the general population (Williams & Volberg, 2010, 2014).
- Another focus of Dr. Volberg’s work in problem gambling measurement has been the development of a number of brief screens for problem gambling to improve the likelihood of screening for problem gambling in substance abuse and mental health settings (Dowling et al., 2018).