Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 347–371 | Cite as

Evolutionary and Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Gambling

  • Peter B. Gray


Few attempts have been made to incorporate evolutionary and cross-cultural perspectives on gambling. This paper begins with the assumption that gambling represents a risky endeavor undertaken for the purpose of winning stakes. This assumption leads to the derivation from evolutionary theory of two hypotheses concerning the socio-demographic characteristics of gamblers: (1) gambling should be over-represented among males, and (2) among young adults. To test these hypotheses, data are drawn from three sources. A cross-cultural sample of 60 societies reveals that males are more often identified as gamblers than females, and these results do not appear to reflect reporting biases. The data are insufficient to enable conclusions about age patterns associated with gambling within this cross-cultural sample. Nationally representative studies of problem and pathological gamblers drawn from seven nation states show that such gamblers tend to be over-represented by young males, as predicted. Lastly, available demographic data on casino gambling hint at sex differences in the games played and the stakes wagered, but require further research for robust conclusions to be drawn.


gambling pathological risk-taking evolution 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, Peabody MuseumHarvard UniversityCambridge

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