The behaviour-attitude divide: understanding public attitudes towards gambling

Paul H. Delfabbro, Daniel L. King

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Most public surveys indicate that people generally hold negative attitudes toward gambling which is considered harmful, too prevalent and not sufficiently regulated by the authorities. Despite this, reported past-year adult participation rates are often 70% or higher. In this paper, we conduct a narrative review of major studies of public attitudes to gain insights into this apparent disjuncture between gambling behavior and attitudes. The paper considers three principal explanations: (a) the effects of measurement; (b) the nature of gambling populations; and, (c) the level of public knowledge about gambling. Negative attitudes, we argue, may be influenced by the wording of commonly used measures; limited public knowledge about the extent of problem gambling or harm; or, incorrect assumptions about the public’s interest in gambling. For example, references to participation figures may disguise the fact that many people gamble only on lottery products and do not approve of other forms. Overall, surveys reveal public support for people’s right to gamble, but also regulatory models where gambling venues are kept separate from other parts of daily life. Future research may benefit from more nuanced methodological designs that capture public gambling knowledge, experiences and appraisal of different regulatory models.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Gambling Studies
Early online date13 Sep 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Sep 2020


  • attitudes
  • Gambling
  • Gambling Attitude Scale
  • international
  • online retail

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