How It’s Named Matters-Gambling vs. Gaming

Words have consequences and nowhere else is this so apparent in the use of the terms ‘gaming’ and ‘gambling.’ Some people believe that the gambling industry used the term gaming to try and reinvent the casino industry. In fact the term gaming predates the word gambling by over two centuries. The use of the word ‘gaming’ to describe the playing of games of chance dates all the way back to 1510. Last October the Columbia Journalism Review published an article about using the term ‘gaming’ to describe gambling. The author, Merrill Perlman, thinks that the casino industry’s efforts to convince people to use the term gaming is something new when history tells a much different story.

Perlman pointed out an essay by the American Gaming Association which is currently headed by former Nevada state Republican Party chair Frank Fahrenkopf. The essay said “While some people assume the word ‘gaming’ was created as a way to ‘re-invent’ the casino industry, history tells a different story. The word ‘gaming’—defined as the action or habit of playing at games of chance for stakes—actually dates back to 1510, predating use of the word ‘gambling’ by 265 years.” Some people believe that gaming is used to soften the social stigma associated with gambling and this may be partially true.

Gambling is still controversial in the United States. Many people oppose it on moral or religious grounds. In the southern United States there have been several instances where harmless bingo games have been cancelled because one or two people complained about ‘gambling.’ At a senior center in Alabama one person complained about the bingo games held at a senior center. This individual was able to convince the town council to ban the games.

Words can have a profound effect on consumers. 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 said “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.”

Most online bingo players consider the games to be a harmless pursuit and would probably be more inclined to think of bingo as gaming rather than gambling. Online bingo does not carry the same social stigma as poker and hard core casino games.

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