“Why people gamble” (or something similar) is the title of one of my most appreciated lectures. It is in demand by gambling companies, treatment agencies and at a variety of academic meetings and conferences. Last Thursday I delivered the lecture to a group of gambling regulators from the Nordic countries, at a seminar organized by the Gaming Board for Sweden.
In the first part of the lecture, I give an outline of the distribution of gambling in the societies of the pre-colonial world and discuss the factors that promoted or restrained gambling: the presence of commercially used money, social inequality, inter-tribal gambling and nomadism. In the second part, I present my model of the motives that individuals have for gambling in western societies of today. The model comprises five motivational dimensions: the dream of hitting the jackpot and transforming one’s life, social rewards, intellectual challenge, mood change induced by playing, and the fundamental motive for all gambling, the chance of winning, viewed as a psychobiological as well as a symbolic and cultural entity. Of course, the lecture is tailored to meet the specific interests of various audiences.