The role of money in the excitement of gambling

Psychol Addict Behav. 2008 Sep;22(3):380-390. doi: 10.1037/0893-164X.22.3.380.


Many gamblers claim that gambling is intrinsically exciting, with money playing only a secondary role. To examine the effects of the expectancy of winning money, the authors randomly assigned 243 male college student gamblers to 1 of 6 experimental or 1 of 3 control conditions. Control participants either simply watched a videotaped horse race or they picked a horse, but without wagering; that horse later turned out to be either the winner of the race or the runner-up. Experimental participants wagered $1 on a horse for a chance of winning either USD 2, USD 7, or USD 15, with half winning and half losing their wagers. Wagering led to increased heart rates and subjective excitement as a function of the expected payoff and of winning as opposed to losing the wager. The study was replicated with 200 female college student gamblers with similar results. These findings support the notion that the excitement of gambling is tied to the expectancy of winning money.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Economics*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Gambling / psychology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reward
  • Students / psychology