Is gambling a search for justice?

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The present article explores the hypothesis that gambling might serve a justice-seeking function for some people, as gambling might offer a means to pursuing desirable outcomes that people feel they deserve but might be unable or unwilling to attain through conventional means. In Study 1, across two separate samples, self-reports of personal relative deprivation predict problem gambling and gambling urges over and above relevant control variables. In Study 2, the authors manipulate personal relative deprivation by informing participants that they have either less or more discretionary income than “similar others.” They then give participants $20 and the opportunity to gamble. The results show that a greater percentage of participants who are “relatively deprived” (vs. “not relatively deprived”) opt to gamble. Two manipulation validation studies demonstrate that the “relatively deprived” participants are preoccupied with justice during a modified Stroop task and feel resentful. Implications for understanding why people gamble are discussed.

Source: “Gambling as a Search for Justice: Examining the Role of Personal Relative Deprivation in Gambling Urges and Gambling Behavior” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, November 2008 vol. 34 no. 11 1514-1529

Or maybe it’s just a way to avoid thinking badly about oneself:

An experiment tested whether thinking about oneself, particularly in negative terms, increases gambling intensity on Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs). Forty male and 65 Female participants, aged 18–76 (M = 46.2, SD = 15.3), were recruited through newspaper advertisements to play a laptop simulated EGM in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia. Prior to play, subjects in the test conditions audio tape-recorded 2 min of self reflection on either: (1) “things you like about yourself,” or (2) “things you don’t like about yourself.” Immediately after the recordings, the subjects played an EGM that was programmed (rigged) with five wins in the first 20 spins, and indefinite losses thereafter. Participants gambled more intensively in terms of Average Bet Size, Number of Trials Played, and Speed of Betting in the negative self reflection condition compared to the control condition. The experiment supports the proposition that EGM gambling behavior is motivated by escape from negative self reflection.

Source: “Gambling on Electronic Gaming Machines is an Escape from Negative Self Reflection” from Journal of Gambling Studies

I’ve got no qualms with gambling but taken too far it certainly won’t make you feel better and whether this is justice is a matter of perspective:

Using newly-constructed estimates of state revenue or its equivalent from casino-type and lottery gambling and panel data set regression techniques, a small but statistically significant bankruptcy effect is found. Assuming a linear relationship between gambling and the rate of personal bankruptcies, casino-type gambling increases bankruptcies by about 2%. Lottery gambling, while less potent per dollar of revenue generated, has about the same total effect.

Source: “Estimating the Effects of Casinos and of Lotteries on Bankruptcy: A Panel Data Set Approach” from Journal of Gambling Studies

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