Chapter 4
GAMBLERS Disturbed or Healthy?

NANCY ASHTON

THE psychology of gambling is a potentially important and interesting area of investigation for a number of reasons. First, gambling activities are widespread in this country and abroad; the increase in legalized forms such as state lotteries, jai alai, and casino gambling, as well as more use of illegal forms, shows how common is the pastime. As a set of behaviors important to many people's lives, it is worthy of study without even considering the additional influences, e.g., the serious effects on some individuals, families, and communities; though it may be true that only some "gamblers" have a gambling-related problem, their behavior may have severe effects on the lives of other people. The study of gambling also opens up more general questions of risk-taking, superstition, reaction to success and failure, and a host of intriguing questions.

Despite the fascinating possibilities, not much research has been conducted. The number of individuals who have published studies of gamblers is not great, and many hypotheses have not been studied. The few studies that exist need replication and extension. This state of affairs may have several explanations. Gamblers and gambling activity can be difficult to study. Much gambling activity is illegal, and even many legalized gambling centers go to great lengths to insure privacy for patrons and to discourage snooping psychologists. Most gamblers do not end up in therapists' offices; thus, many who gamble are not known as gamblers. Another problem is that there are many kinds of gambling activities, and one cannot generalize from betting on horses, taking part in football pools, playing blackjack, or playing slot machines to another form of gambling, or even to gambling in general. The personality

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