Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 116, Issue 3, pp 601–614 | Cite as

Fixing the Game? Legitimacy, Morality Policy and Research in Gambling

  • Rohan Miller
  • Grant Michelson


It is a truism that some industries are controversial either because the processes employed or the resulting products, for instance, can potentially harm the well-being of people. The controversy that surrounds certain industries can sharply polarise public opinion and debate. In this article, we employ legitimacy theory and morality policy to show how one industry sector (the electronic gaming machine sector as part of the wider gambling industry) is subject to this reaction. We suggest that the difficulty in establishing legitimacy surrounding CSR practices in this sector is related to morality policy, whereby ideology and personal values play important roles in dividing opinion. Thus, gambling is often framed as an activity that is morally and ethically problematic. To show how this can manifest, we examine the veracity of two state-funded studies in Australia used in the development of gambling policy and their subsequent adoption in academic research. We highlight methodological, analytical and reporting issues in these studies that normally should be identified by those using such findings. The significance is that when morality policy and conflict surrounding legitimacy are involved, then it can explain why adherence to normative research standards is potentially lowered. Our theoretical posture leads us to further speculate that the adoption and communication of CSR in electronic gambling will be contested by opponents of the industry.


Stakeholders Electronic gambling Legitimacy theory Morality policy Corporate social responsibility 



We sincerely thank the three anonymous referees for providing incisive and detailed comments on earlier versions of the article. Collectively, their comments and suggestions have helped to produce a much improved article.

Conflict of interest

The first author has previously worked for, and acted as a consultant to, the gambling industry and identified some of the issues raised in this paper during consulting roles. The second author has never been associated with or interested in gambling or the gambling industry. The authors declare no conflicts of interest and no financial support for the authorship of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Sydney Business SchoolSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Management, Edith Cowan UniversityPerthAustralia

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