WHY PEOPLE GAMBLE
A Behavioral Perspective
MICHAEL L. FRANK
UPON entering the playing area of a casino, an observer is struck by an array of frenetic activity of vast proportion. A continual stream of people is entering and leaving the casino floor. Literally hundreds of people mill around, apparently, in random fashion. Some studiously apply themselves to their chosen task: playing cards, dice, or slot machines. Others sit at small tables with cocktails, talking or watching other people. A group of people watch with reverence the players in a velvet and velour arena playing "high stakes" poker, baccarat, or blackjack. The players themselves exhibit a wide variety of behaviors ranging from placid, calm movements executed with blank countenance, to frenzied activity, seemingly in search of some devine sign from Lady Luck. Although the behavior is different in typology, all the players are engaged in functionally the same behavior. They are all risking money in order to make more money. Each and every person is gambling. Although this simple fact is obvious, the issue of what players are doing becomes more complicated when one raises other more interesting questions such as: Why do people engage in gambling behavior? How does the behavior develop? And, how is the behavior maintained?
The eventual answer to these questions is dependent, to a large degree, on the level of analysis of the behavior. A molar analysis leads one to view the entire sequence of entering the gambling situation, waging, observing the outcome, and continuing to wager as a unitary behavior. When viewing gambling from this perspective, one misses sequential aspects of the behavior. Each wager and outcome are not individually examined. A molar analysis demands that one attends to the terminal aspect of the entire sequence of events, that is, net gain