Campus Life

Christensen appointed AGRI Chair in Gambling

The University of Lethbridge is adding to its capacity as an internationally reputed centre for the study of gambling and addictions following the appointment of Dr. Darren R. Christensen as the Alberta Gambling Research Institute’s (AGRI) Chair in Gambling at the University of Lethbridge.

Dr. Darren Christensen has studied gambling and addictions in a number of different countries and settings.

The five-year appointment, which saw Christensen arrive on campus January 10, 2014, adds another accomplished researcher with a global perspective to the fold.

“There were a variety of reasons for coming to the University of Lethbridge, the main being that the U of L has two of the more prominent gambling researchers in the world in Dr. Robert Williams and Dr. Robert Wood,” says Christensen, a native of New Zealand who most recently was a research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Problem Gambling Research and Treatment Centre in Australia.

“They are very well known in the research community and this was an opportunity to work with and learn from people who are among the best in the world at what they do.”

The Alberta Gambling Research Institute, established in 1999 and funded by the Government of Alberta, is a consortium of the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge. Its primary purpose is to support and promote research into gambling in the province. Each member institution will appoint an AGRI Chair.

"The U of L continues to be a destination of choice for leading researchers, in large part due to the excellent faculty we already have in place,” says Dr. Dan Weeks, the University’s vice-president (research). “Dr. Christensen is an example of this and adds even greater strength to the established gambling-related research programs currently running at the U of L. He also provides our students with a unique international perspective that can only serve to enhance their studies."

Born and raised in New Zealand, Christensen earned his bachelor of business studies in Human Resource Management from Massey University before going on to earn his master’s and PhD designations in psychology from the University of Canterbury.

Christensen has studied gambling and addiction in a number of countries and settings, including a two-year post-doctoral study in Arkansas where he worked at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Center for Addiction Research. He has recently studied contingency management treatment methods that use positive and/or negative outcomes to change the frequency of future behaviours as a treatment for substance abuse.

“Gambling is closer to substance abuse than people realize,” he says. “I look at gambling and substance abuse as all a part of human decision making. Where once it was thought of as an impulse control disorder, it is now recognized as a behavioural addiction.”

He sees the University of Lethbridge as fertile ground for his research ambitions.

“I intend to start with a fairly broad research plan, looking at the basic science of addiction,” he says. “What is exciting is that there are so many collaborative opportunities here it allows me the chance to work with behavioural neuroscientists, addictions counselors and public health practitioners, among others. Studying gambling and other addictive behaviours from these different yet complimentary perspectives creates the opportunity for some real insight.”