“Gaming” vs. “Gambling” Revisited

by , Oct 16, 2013 | 4:12 pm

Do we call it gaming or gambling? I think we all know the casino industry would prefer we call it “gaming”, but for poker players that’s sometimes kinda hard when you see your heroes on the TV holding second pair and a gutshot only to be shouting “gamble gamble!” after an all-in and a call.

While some suggest gaming and gambling have already virtually converged, and others contend that no matter, the customers are different, there has been little definitive work to confirm what the Nevada Gaming Commission (and Gaming Control Board) have known all along: People are more comfortable betting real money when the activity in question is referred to as gaming, not gambling.

At least that’s the case when it comes to online wagers, according to new research set to be published in the December issue of Journal of Consumer Research. Full title: “Framing the Game: Assessing the Impact of Cultural Representations on Consumer Perceptions of Legitimacy.” (LOL academic phrasiologies.)

While this study looks at myriad forms of casino gambl, er, gaming, it takes special note of online poker. By doing a content analysis of newspaper coverage post-Black Friday, researchers found that indeed, media suddenly stopped presenting poker as an online entertainment option akin to video games and instead were presenting it using words associated with criminal pursuits.

Read below for more details about what they found, and feel free to question the credibility of any social scientist who doesn’t reference the phrase, “one time!” when talking about the relationship between cards and money.

Why Are Consumers More Likely To Participate in Online Gaming Than Gambling?

Consumers are more likely to participate in online betting if it’s called “gaming” rather than “gambling,” according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“Changing an industry label from gambling to gaming affects what consumers, especially non-users, think of betting online,” write authors Ashlee Humphreys (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University) and Kathryn A. LaTour (Cornell University). “A label like gaming prompts all sorts of implicit associations like entertainment and fun, while a label like gambling can prompt seedier implicit associations like crime.”

These largely unconscious associations affect what people think of the industry and even their intention to participate, the authors explain. The process of changing perceptions, called framing, has an impact on whether or not people think the industry is socially acceptable. And framing can occur merely by changing a word.

The authors analyzed newspapers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for the language used to describe online betting. They analyzed coverage of “Black Friday,” April 15, 2011, when the US government shut down the three largest online betting sites. Newspapers shifted the way they described the online activity, framing it more as a crime, which led to a shift in consumer judgments about the legitimacy of online casinos, especially among non-users.

The authors conducted two experiments rto explore what causes consumers to make different judgments about gambling. They found that “rags-to-riches” or “get-rich-quick” narratives prompted a set of favorable or unfavorable implicit associations among participants. In a stronger test of their hypothesis, the authors changed only one word in the narratives—gambling or gaming—and found that the “gaming” label caused non-users to judge online betting as more legitimate. “This last experiment shows that a name change to ‘gaming’ can even prompt non-users to be more inclined to participate in online betting,” the authors add.

“Industry labeling has important implications not only for whether or not consumers find an industry acceptable,” the authors conclude. “For example, opponents to online gambling may want to be aware of the potential for social media to become a conduit for the expansion of online gambling.


Ashlee Humphreys and Kathryn A. LaTour. “Framing the Game: Assessing the Impact of Cultural Representations on Consumer Perceptions of Legitimacy.” Journal of Consumer Research: December 2013. http://ejcr.org/.

2 Comments to ““Gaming” vs. “Gambling” Revisited”

  1. lala

    ok then

  2. nolan dalla

    The interchange of gambling and gaming is troubling, especially for those of us who are its proponents. The substitution of more palatable language seems an admission that gambling is objectionable and therefore must be euphemized. To the contrary. Gaming does not exist in my vocabulary, except as it relates to activities like video games.