Brett Abarbanel appointed as UNLV International Gaming Institute’s executive director

The UNLV International Gaming Institute announced Brett Abarbanel has been appointed as its new executive director, having taken office on January 1. She has worked at IGI since 2016 as the director of research, with an affiliate research position at the University of Sydney Science, Brain and Mind Centre. 

After completing her Ph. D., Abarbanel served as the head of Social and Recreational Gambling Research at the UCLA Gambling Studies program before returning to UNLV in her current role. She is also an associate professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality.

Interim Vice President for Research David Hatchett welcomed Abarbanel to the executive team: “The Division of Research is looking forward to working with Brett Abarbanel as Bo Bernhard transitions to the vice president of economic development.

“We have discussed her vision for the International Gaming Institute, and I am confident in her leadership of this very important program,” he added. “I am also looking forward to having her join our executive leadership and the perspective she brings to the team.”

Abarbanel’s research covers video games, esports and gambling, operations and technology, and responsible gambling and community relations, and she has presented her work in over 20 countries around the world and dozens of U.S. states. 

She is the executive editor of the UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal, an editorial board member at International Gambling Studies, and Harvard University’s Brief Addiction Science Information Source.

She is a founding director of the Nevada Esports Alliance, which promotes the development of best practices at the intersection of the esports and regulated gambling industries, and an inaugural member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s Esports Technical Advisory Committee. 

“It is an honor to step into the role of Executive Director at International Gaming Institute, a world-renowned research, education, and innovation hub for the study of gambling with a brilliant staff,” said Abarbanel. “I am eager to collaborate with our many stakeholders in academe, government, non-profit, and industry and continue to grow IGI’s reach and impact on the gambling world.”

Succeeding Bo Bernhard.

Abarbanel was honored by The Innovation Group with their 2015 Emerging Leader Award and was named to the 2016 Global Gaming Business 40 Under 40 list. She has been interviewed as a gambling expert in local, national, and international media outlets, and served as a consultant for multiple industry, non-profit, and government entities.

Abarbanel succeeds Bernhard, who now serves as UNLV vice president of economic development and will maintain his affiliation with IGI as special advisor to the executive director.