New study says the name matters: 'Gaming' vs. 'Gambling'

A new study from Cornell University confirms something most sports bettors already knew: 'Gaming' sounds like less of a dirty word than 'Gambling'.

In the study, researchers from Cornell and Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism analyzed descriptions of online, lotteries and casino gambling in the media between 1980 and 2010. Then they looked at coverage of Black Friday (April 15, 2011) when three major gambling sites were shut down by the federal government.

“Changing an industry label from gambling to gaming affects what consumers, especially nonusers, think of betting online. 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,” write Kathy LaTour, associate professor of services marketing at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, and Ashlee Humphreys of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

This is really just means there is now hard data on a viewpoint that's been around for a while.

I can remember post-2006 when the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act) was sneakily slid into law under the guise of the SAFE Ports Act. Around the office - and the industry in general - you saw the word 'gaming' quickly used as a softer substitute in everything from ads to business discussions. So this isn't new.

But the purpose of the study is to help companies better understand consumer behavior and in turn communicate better with the market. I get all that but 'gaming' is a term I don't often use and here's why:

1. Because it is, in fact, gambling and the longer we act ashamed of that the longer we give opponents of legalization the entitlement to treat it as something to be ashamed of.

 
2. Because the term 'gaming' is misleading. It's the common industry term used for playing video games and rightfully so. When you Google 'sports gaming' the first ad is for EA Sports and the first hit is for a website devoted to sports video games.

What I'd like to see is the study on whether using the word 'gaming' over time actually generates more customers and revenue than using the word 'gambling'. I don't think we're quite there yet.

Until then, enjoy your sports gambling this weekend and your sports gaming.

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