Center of Excellence in Gambling Research

Key Personnel

Principal Investigator:

Wendy S. Slutske, Ph.D.


Ian R. Gizer, Ph.D.

Thomas M. Piasecki, Ph.D.


With our colleagues at Berghofer QIMR in Brisbane, Australia, we have embarked on a meta-analysis of disordered gambling genome-wide association studies (GWAS).

Featured Op-Ed from Dr. Slutske: The Natural History of My Research on the Natural History of Gambling Disorder


The Center is supported by a grant from the International Center for Responsible Gaming.

Our Research

Only about 10% of individuals with disordered gambling (DG) seek treatment and there is evidence that studies based on this treatment-seeking minority may not generalize to the larger population of those with DG in the community. A challenge to conducting community-based studies of DG is the fact that it is relatively rare. We have taken on this challenge by assembling a unique suite of six community-based studies of DG along with a team of investigators who have the requisite expertise to interrogate these data.

Together, these projects will move us forward in answering the following pressing questions about the etiology and epidemiology of DG:

(1) Is living in a disadvantaged neighborhood a (potentially malleable) environmental cause of DG?

(2) Where among the ~20,000 genes in the human genome are the variants associated with the risk for DG?

(3) Do the genetic variants associated with DG overlap with the genetic variants associated with the risk for alcohol, nicotine, and cannabis use disorders and individual differences in personality traits?

(4) What is the long-term stability of DG?

(5) What are the consequences of persisent versus sporadic disordered gambling in mid-adulthood?

Data Sources

Australian Twin Registry, Cohort 1 (ATR 1)  

ATR1 is a study of a large representative community-based sample of 4,764 individual twins born in 1964-1976 and were 32-43 years of age at the time of the data collection conducted in 2004-2007. The twins completed a structured diagnostic telephone interview. Neighborhood characteristics will be based on 2006 Australian Census data.

Australian Twin Registry, Cohort 2 (ATR2)

ATR2 is also a study of a large representative community-based sample of 3,348 individual twins. The twins were born in 1972-1979 and were 27-40 years of age at the time of the data collection conducted in 2005-2009. Similar to ATR1, the twins completed a computer-assisted diagnostic telephone interview. Neighborhood characteristics will be based on 2006 Australian Census data.


LifeGene is a prospective cohort study conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.  Participants are randomly selected from a national Swedish address registry. From the participants personal web page there is also an opportunity to invite other members of the household to the study. Biological and physical assessments are conducted in person at a test center. A wide array of self-report measurements is assessed via a web portal.  As of the end of 2015, there were questionnaire data from more than 45,000 individuals, physical and biological samples from more than 25,000 individuals and extracted DNA on approximately 25,000 participants.

Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)

The ALSPAC, conducted at the University of Bristol in Southwest UK, is a multi-generation, geographically based cohort study following 14,541 mothers recruited during pregnancy (in 1990-1992), their offspring, and their partners. A wide range of measures have been collected, including paper-and-pencil and online questionnaires, clinical interviews, data obtained from biological samples (including genome-wide association data), and data extracted from administrative records (including neighborhood quality data).  

National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health)

The Add Health study is nationally-representative longitudinal US study that was initiated in 1994-95. Four waves of interview data have been collected, and a fifth wave of data collection is currently underway. Participants were 11–20 years of age at Wave I in 1994-1995, and were followed up at 12-21 years of age, 18-26 years of age, and 24-32 years of age. The sample sizes for the four waves were 14,738–20,745.  At each Wave, datasets of US Census indicators matched to the participants’ census tracts were developed and can be used to index neighborhood disadvantage.

Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study) is a longitudinal investigation of the health and behavior of a complete birth cohort of 1,037 (91% of consecutive births between April 1, 1972, and March 31, 1973) in Dunedin, New Zealand. Follow-up assessments were conducted with informed consent at 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38 years of age when 95% of the living study members underwent assessment in 2010 to 2012. The most recent assessment, at age 45, was conducted in 2017. The Dunedin Study represents the longest longitudinal follow-up of DG yet conducted,

Recent Center Publications

Dash, G.F., Martin, N.G., & Slutske, W.S. (2020). Childhood maltreatment and disordered gambling in adulthood: Disentangling causal and familial influences. Psychological Medicine, online first.

Background. Despite abundant research on the potential causal influence of childhood maltreatment (CM) on psychological maladaptation in adulthood, almost none has implemented the discordant twin design as a means of examining the role of such experiences in later disordered gambling (DG) while accounting for genetic and family environmental confounds. The present study implemented such an approach to disentangle the potential causal and familial factors that may account for the association between CM and DG.

Methods. Participants were 3,750 twins from the Australian Twin Registry (Mage=37.60 [SD=2.31]; 58% female). CM and DG were assessed separately via two semi-structured telephone interviews. Random-intercept generalized linear mixed models were fit to the data; zygosity, sex, educational attainment, childhood psychiatric disorder, adult antisocial behavior, and alcohol use disorder (AUD) were included as covariates.

Results. Neither quasi-causal nor familial effects of CM predicted DG after adjusting for covariates. Educational attainment appeared to reduce risk of DG while AUD appeared to increase risk; evidence also emerged for familial effects of antisocial behavior on DG. Post-hoc analyses revealed a familial effect of CM on antisocial behavior, indicating that the association between CM and DG identified in unadjusted models and in prior studies may be accounted for by genetic and shared family environmental effects of antisociality.

Conclusions. These findings add to the meager literature showing that CM does not exert a causal effect on DG, and present novel evidence that familial effects of antisocial behavior may account for the association between CM and DG identified in extant non-twin research.

Piasecki, T.M., Gizer, I.R., & Slutske, W.S. (2019). Polygenic risk scores for psychiatric disorders reveal novel clues about the genetics of disordered gambling. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 22, 283-289. PubMed 

Disordered gambling (DG) is a rare but serious condition that results in considerable financial and interpersonal harms. Twin studies indicate that DG is heritable but are silent with respect to specific genes or pathways involved. Existing genomewide association studies (GWAS) of DG have been substantially underpowered. Larger GWAS of other psychiatric disorders now permit calculation of polygenic risk scores (PRSs) that reflect the aggregated effects of common genetic variants contributing risk for the target condition. The current study investigated whether gambling and DG are associated with PRSs for four psychiatric conditions found to be comorbid with DG in epidemiologic surveys: major depressive disorder (MDD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder (BD) and schizophrenia (SCZ). Genotype data and survey responses were analyzed from the Wave IV assessment (conducted in 2008) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a representative sample of adolescents recruited in 1994-1995 and followed into adulthood. Among participants classified as having European ancestry based on genetic analysis (N = 5215), 78.4% reported ever having gambled, and 1.3% reported lifetime DG. Polygenic risk for BD was associated with decreased odds of lifetime gambling, OR = 0.93 [0.87, 0.99], p = .045, pseudo-R2(%) = .12. The SCZ PRS was associated with increased odds of DG, OR = 1.54 [1.07, 2.21], p = .02, pseudo-R2(%) = .85. Polygenic risk scores for MDD and ADHD were not related to either gambling outcome. Investigating features common to both SCZ and DG might generate valuable clues about the genetically influenced liabilities to DG.

Dash, G.F., Slutske, W.S., Martin, N.G., Statham, D.J., Agrawal, A., & Lynskey, M.T. (2019). Big 5 personality traits and alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, and gambling disorder comorbidity. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 33, 420-429. PubMed

The DSM-5 re-assignment of gambling disorder as an addictive disorder alongside the substance-related addictive disorders encourages research into their shared etiologies. The aims of this study were to examine: (1) the associations of Big 5 personality dimensions with alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, and gambling disorders, (2) the comorbidity between these disorders, (3) the extent to which common personality underpinnings explain comorbidity, (4) whether results differed for men and women, and (5) the magnitude of personality differences corresponding to the four disorders. Participants were 3,785 twins and siblings (1,365 men, 2,420 women; Mage=32, range=21-46) from the Australian Twin Registry who completed psychiatric interviews and Big 5 personality inventories. The personality profile of high neuroticism, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness was associated with all four addictive disorders. All but one of the pairwise associations between the disorders were significant. After accounting for Big 5 traits, the associations were attenuated to varying degrees but remained significant. The results were generally similar for men and women. The results suggest that the Big 5 traits of neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness are associated with the general propensity to develop an addictive disorder and may in part explain their co-occurrence; however, they may be more broadly associated with the propensity for any psychiatric disorder. The effect sizes of the personality associations suggest that the diagnosis of gambling disorder as operationalized by the DSM may be more severe than the other addictive disorders. Calibration of the diagnosis of gambling disorder to the other addictive disorders may be warranted.

Preliminary results of this research were presented at the 2018 meeting of the National Center for Responsible Gaming. PDF

Slutske, W.S., Piasecki, T.M., Deutsch, A.R., Statham. D.J., & Martin, N.G. (2019). Potential causal influence of neighborhood disadvantage on disordered gambling: Evidence from a multi-level discordant twin design. Clinical Psychological Science, 7, 582-596. PubMed

The quality of the neighborhood in which one lives has been linked to disordered gambling (DG), but whether this reflects a causal relation has not yet been empirically examined. Participants were 3,450 Australian twins who completed assessments of past-year DG and personality and for whom census-derived indicators of disadvantage were used to characterize their neighborhood. Multilevel models were employed to estimate within-twin-pair and between-twin-pair effects of neighborhood disadvantage on DG, with the within-twin-pair effect representing a potentially causal association and the between-twin-pair effect representing a non-causal association. There was robust evidence for a potentially causal (as well as a non-causal) effect of neighborhood disadvantage on DG (in contrast, parallel analyses of past-year alcohol use disorder failed to find evidence of a potentially causal effect). These results support efforts focused on identifying the active ingredients contributing to the effect of neighborhood disadvantage on DG and developing interventions to limit their impact.

Davis, C.N., Slutske, W.S., Martin, N.G., Agrawal, A., & Lynskey, M.T. (2019). Genetic and environmental influences on gambling disorder liability: A replication and combined analysis of two twin studies. Psychological Medicine, 49, 1705-1702. PubMed

Background: Gambling disorder, recognized in DSM-5 as a behavioral addiction, is associated with a range of adverse outcomes. However, there has been little research on the genetic and environmental influences on the development of this disorder. This study reports results from the largest twin study of GD conducted to date.

Methods: Replication and combined analyses were based on samples of 3,292 (mean age 31.8, born 1972-79) and 4,764 (mean age 37.7, born 1964-71) male, female, and unlike-sex twin pairs from the Australian Twin Registry. Univariate biometric twin models estimated the proportion of variation in the latent GD liability that could be attributed to genetic, shared environmental, and unique environmental factors, and whether these differed quantitatively or qualitatively for men and women.

Results: In the replication study, when using a lower GD threshold, there was evidence for significant genetic (60%; 95% CI: [45 – 76%]) and unique environmental (40%; 95% CI: [24 – 56%]), but not shared environmental contributions (0%; 95% CI: [0 – 0%]) to GD liability; this did not significantly differ from the original study. In the combined analysis, higher GD thresholds (such as one consistent with DSM-5 GD) and a multiple threshold definition of GD yielded similar results. There was no evidence for quantitative or qualitative sex differences in the liability for GD.

Conclusions: Twin studies of GD are few in number but they tell a remarkably similar story: substantial genetic and unique environmental influences, with no evidence for shared environmental contributions or sex differences in GD liability.

Preliminary results of this research were presented at the 2018 meeting of the American Psychological Society.

Slutske, W.S. (2018). Has the genetic contribution to the propensity to gamble increased? Evidence from national twin studies conducted in 1962 and 2002. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 21, 119-125. PubMed

Social changes, such as the expansion of legal forms of gambling, can influence not only the prevalence of gambling, but also can shape the relative importance of genetic and environmental contributions to individual differences in the propensity to gamble. In the present study, I examined differences in the prevalence and in the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors to gambling involvement in the United States in 1962 versus 2002. The data came from two sources: (1) a survey of 839 17 year-old same-sex twin pairs from the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test Twin Study, and (2) an interview of 477 18-26 year-old same-sex twin pairs from Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Similar measures of gambling participation were included in the two studies. Evidence for a genotype-by-time interaction was evaluated by testing whether the contribution of genetic influences was greater in the more recently-born cohort of twins. Despite the major changes in the gambling landscape over the intervening 40 years, there was no evidence for such an interaction. The contribution of genetic factors and environmental factors did not significantly differ and there was no evidence for genetic influences at either time point. Instead, the variation in the propensity to gamble was explained nearly equally by common and unique environmental factors. Explanations for this surprising finding are discussed.

Gambling Research by Center-Affilliated Researchers


Lang, M., Lemenager, T., Streit, F., Fauth-Buhler, M., Frank., J., Juraeva, D., Witt, S.H., Degenhardt, F., Hofmann, A., Heilmann-Heimbach, S., Kiefer, F., Brors, B., Grabe, H., John, U., Bischof, A., Bischof, G., Volker, U., Homuth, G., Beutel, M., Lind, P., Medland, S., Slutske, W.S., Martin, N.G., Volzke, H., Nothen, M.M., Meyer, C., Rumpf, H., Wurst, F.M., Reitschel, M., & Mann, K.F. (2016).  Genome-wide association study of pathological gambling.  European Psychiatry, 36, 38-46.  Abstract


Slutske, W.S., Deutsch, A.R., Statham, D.J., & Martin, N.G. (2015). Local area disadvantage and gambling involvement and disorder: Evidence for gene-environment correlation and interaction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 124, 606-622. Abstract

Slutske, W.S., Piasecki, T.M., Deutsch, A.R., Statham. D.J. & Martin, N.G. (2015). Telescoping and gender differences in the time course of disordered gambling: Evidence from a general population sample. Addiction, 110, 144-151. Abstract

Scherrer, J.F., Xian, H., Slutske, W.S., Eisen, S.A., & Potenza, M.N. (2015).  Associations between obsessive-compulsive classes and pathological gambling in a national cohort of male twins.  JAMA Psychiatry, 72, 342-349. Abstract


Slutske, W.S., Deutsch, A.R., Richmond-Rakerd, L.S., Chernyavskiy, P., Statham, D.J., & Martin, N.G. (2014). Test of a potential causal influence of earlier age of gambling initiation on gambling involvement and disorder: A multi-level discordant twin design.  Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 28, 1177-1189. Abstract

Savage, J.E., Slutske, W.S., & Martin, N.G. (2014).  Personality and gambling involvement: A person-centered approach.  Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 28, 1198-1211.  Abstract

Richmond-Rakerd, L.S., Slutske, W.S., Heath, A.C., & Martin, N.G. (2014).  Genetic and environmental influences on the ages of drinking and gambling initiation: Evidence for distinct aetiologies and sex differences. Addiction, 109, 323-331. Abstract

Slutske, W.S. & Richmond-Rakerd, L.S. (2014).  A closer look at the evidence for sex differences in the genetic and environmental influences on gambling in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health: From disordered to ordered gambling. Addiction, 109, 120-127. Abstract


Slutske, W.S., Ellingson, J.M., Richmond-Rakerd, L.S., Zhu, G., & Martin, N.G. (2013). Shared genetic vulnerability for disordered gambling and alcohol use disorder in men and women: Evidence from a national community-based Australian twin study. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 16, 525-534.  Abstract

Slutske, W.S., Cho, S.B., Piasecki, T.M., & Martin, N.G. (2013). Genetic overlap between personality and risk for disordered gambling: Evidence from a national community-based Australian twin study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122, 250-255. Abstract

Slutske, W.S. (2013). Genetics of disordered gambling. In: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (eLS), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: Chichester.

Richmond-Rakerd, L.S., Slutske, W.S., & Piasecki, T.M. (2013).  Birth cohort and sex differences in the age of gambling initiation in the United States: Evidence from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. International Gambling Studies, 13, 417-429. Abstract

Lind, P.A., Zhu, G., Montgomery, G.W., Madden, P.A.F., Heath, A.C., Martin, N.G., & Slutske, W.S. (2013).  Genome-wide association study of a quantitative disordered gambling trait.  Addiction Biology, 18, 511-522.  Abstract


Slutske, W.S., Moffitt, T.E., Poulton, R., & Caspi, A. (2012).  Undercontrolled temperament at age 3 predicts disordered gambling at age 32: A longitudinal study of a complete birth cohort.  Psychological Science, 23, 510-516. Abstract


Slutske, W.S., Zhu, G., Meier, M.H., & Martin, N.G. (2011). Disordered gambling as defined by the DSM-IV and the South Oaks Gambling Screen: Evidence for a common etiologic structure. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 120, 743-751. Abstract


Slutske, W.S., Zhu, G., Meier, M.H., & Martin, N.G. (2010). Genetic and environmental influences on disordered gambling in men and women. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67, 624-630. Abstract

Slutske, W.S., Piasecki, T.M., Ellingson, J.M., & Martin, N.G. (2010).  The family history method in disordered gambling research: A comparison of reports from discordant twin pairs.  Twin Research and Human Genetics, 13, 340-346. Abstract

Slutske, W.S., Piasecki, T.M., Blaszczynski, A, & Martin, N.G. (2010).  Pathological gambling recovery in the absence of abstinence.  Addiction, 105, 2169-2175. Abstract

Slutske, W.S. (2010).  Why is natural recovery so common for addictive disorders? Addiction, 105, 1520-1521. Abstract

Ellingson, J.M., Slutske, W.S., & Martin, N.G. (2010). The reliability and validity of the family history method for assessing pathological gambling and gambling involvement.  Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 24, 292-299. Abstract


Slutske, W.S., Meier, M.H., Zhu, G., Statham, D.J., Blaszczynski, A., & Martin, N.G. (2009).  The Australian twin study of gambling (OZ-GAM): Rationale, sample description, predictors of participation, and a first look at sources of individual differences in gambling involvement.  Twin Research and Human Genetics, 12, 63-78. Abstract

Slutske, W.S., Blaszczynski, A., & Martin, N.G. (2009).  Sex differences in the rates of recovery, treatment-seeking, and natural recovery in pathological gambling: Results from an Australian community-based twin survey. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 12, 425-432. Abstract

Goudriaan, A., Slutske, W.S., Krull, J.L., & Sher, K.J. (2009).  Longitudinal patterns of gambling activities and associated risk factors in college students.  Addiction, 104, 1219-1232. Abstract


Xian, H., Scherrer, J.F., Slutske, W.S., Shah, K.R., Volberg, R., & Eisen, S.A. (2007).  Genetic and environmental contributions to pathological gambling symptoms in a 10-year follow-up.  Twin Research and Human Genetics, 10, 174-179.  Abstract

Slutske, W.S. (2007).  Longitudinal studies of gambling behavior.  In G. Smith, D. Hodgins, and R. Williams (Eds.), Research and Measurement Issues in Gambling Studies.  Elsevier: New York.

Scherrer, J.F., Slutske, W.S., Xian, H., Waterman, B., Shah, K.R., Volberg, R., Eisen, S.A. (2007).  Factors associated with pathological gambling at 10-year follow-up in a national sample of middle-aged men.  Addiction, 102, 970-978. Abstract


Slutske, W.S. (2006). On the limits of cross-sectional retrospective data for characterizing the course of pathological gambling and its relation with comorbid psychopathology: A reply to Afifi, Cox, and Sareen (letter). American Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 1297-1298.

Slutske, W.S. (2006).  Natural recovery and treatment-seeking in pathological gambling: Results of two US national surveys.  American Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 297-302. Abstract


Winters, K.C., Stinchfield, R.D., Botzet, A., & Slutske, W.S. (2005).  Pathways of youth gambling problem severity.  Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 19, 104-107.  Abstract

Slutske, W.S., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T.E., & Poulton, R.  (2005). Personality and problem gambling: A prospective study of a birth cohort of young adults. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 769-775. Abstract

Scherrer, J.F., Xian, H., Shah, K., Volberg, R., Slutske, W., & Eisen, S.A. (2005). Effect of genes, environment, and co-occurring disorders on health related quality of life among problem and pathological gamblers.  Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 677-683. Abstract


Slutske, W.S., Jackson, K.M., & Sher, K.J. (2003).  The natural history of problem gambling from age 18 to 29.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112, 263-274. Abstract

Sher, K.J., & Slutske, W.S. (2003).  Disorders of impulse control. In G. Stricker and T. Widiger (Eds.) Comprehensive Handbook of Psychology: Psychopathology (Volume 8) (pp. 195-228).  Wiley: New York.


Slutske, W.S., Eisen, S.A., Xian, H., True, W.R., Lyons, M.J.,  Goldberg, J., & Tsuang, M.T. (2001). A twin study of the association between pathological gambling and antisocial personality disorder.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 297-308. Abstract

Eisen, S.A., Slutske, W.S., Lyons, M., Lassman, J., Xian, H., Toomey, R., Chantarujikapong, S., Tsuang, M. (2001). The genetics of pathological gambling.  Seminars in Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 6, 195-204. Abstract


Slutske, W.S., Eisen, S.A., True, W.R., Lyons, M.J., Goldberg, J., & Tsuang, M.T.  (2000). Common genetic vulnerability for pathological gambling and alcohol dependence in men.  Archives of General Psychiatry, 57, 666-673. Abstract

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