What’s in a name? Quite a lot if your business is gambling.
No, better make that gaming.

Or that’s the advice implied by a new study due out in December in the U.S.-based Journal of Consumer Research that found that people are more likely to place a bet on the Internet depending on how Internet gambling, or “gaming” rather, is presented.
“Changing an industry label from ‘gambling’ to ‘gaming’ affects what consumers, especially non-users, think of betting online,” say the authors, Ashlee Humphreys and Kathryn A. LaTour, who reached their findings through an analysis of media coverage, personal interviews and a bit of psychological profiling.
“A label like ‘gaming’ prompts all sorts of implicit associations like entertainment and fun,” they say, “while a label like ‘gambling’ can prompt seedier implicit associations like crime.”
And implicit associations are what it’s all about, as any advertising executive will tell you. 

Humphreys and LaTour are academics in the field of marketing—Humphreys teaches at Northwestern University in Illinois, LaTour at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration—and they explain the process by which positive associations are formed as one of “legitimation”. It’s common to many industries. When the media get involved it’s called “framing,” and its effects, in their words, can be “profound”. This is true, they say, both in how it affects individuals by altering associations that influence behavior, and in a societal context in terms of its impacts on what might be called the collective “consumer memory”. 
Legitimation in the chance business has been going on for decades. Long before the American Gaming Association and the Interactive Gaming Council and the European Gaming and Betting Association and the International Masters of Gaming Law and scores of like-minded advocacy and trade groups got hold of it, governments were consciously “framing” for the sake of revenue-generation. The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority of New South Wales dates back to 1976, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation to 1977, the year the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement was established. 
The granddaddy of them all, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, has been around since 1955.
When the Internet grew to be a force the same approach was taken up by agencies like the Government of Gibraltar Gaming Division and the Lotteries and Gaming Authority of Malta—and it continues in the land-based sector as new jurisdictions need to be legitimized—the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the Gaming Board of Hungary, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and so on.
Of course, there are plenty that don’t quibble—the UK Gambling Commission springs to mind, the California and Washington State Gambling commissions, Belgium’s Commission Des Jeux De Hasard, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, Montenegro’s Uprava za Ígre na Sreću, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Regulation, the Buenos Aires-based trade group Asociación Latinoamerica de Juegos de Azar.
In their research into The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other media outlets, Humphreys and LaTour keyed on coverage of the April 2011 “Black Friday” indictments, when the U.S. government all but shut down three of the world’s largest poker sites. Newspapers shifted the way they described online gambling, framing it more as a crime, and they discovered this led to a shift in consumer judgments about the legitimacy of online casinos, especially among non-users.
Exploring what causes individuals to make such judgments, they found that “rags-to-riches” or “get-rich-quick” pitches prompted both favorable and unfavorable associations. But when they changed only the words “gambling” or “gaming” in those narratives they found “gaming” caused non-gamblers to view them as more legitimate.
‘Seeming’ Legitimate 
A long time ago, on the other side of the world, Stanley Ho grasped the power of imagery when he wangled Macau’s last casino monopoly from a Portuguese governor dissatisfied with the previous monopoly’s efforts to promote the city as a destination. The governor believed it was time to call a spade a spade, out of which came an official definition of “games of fortune” to describe its principal business. Ho was quick to reassure his colonial sponsors by including “tourism” and “entertainment” in the name of his new company—Sociedade de Turismos e Diversões de Macau—though it would take another 50 years and the breakup of his monopoly before “tourism” and “entertainment” came anywhere near to describing the place, by which time the public agency that oversees the largest pure gambling market in the world, the Direcção de Inspecção e Coordanação de Jogos, would be regularly translated (not quite accurately perhaps) as the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
As for Ho’s clientele, then and now, no euphemisms have been necessary because “games of fortune” have always been embraced unabashedly by the Chinese as just that. 
Of course, it’s an association as old as humanity, steeped in divination, rich with allusions to a plenitude of unseen forces directing the destinies of men, and probably it was for these reasons that with the arrival of Christianity gambling in the West began to acquire the moral opprobrium it retains to this day, which may have been why in English “gambling” and “gaming” wound up going their separate semantic ways, as they’ve done in other European languages.
To put it another way, how would a lobby calling itself the “American Gambling Association” ever have fared on Capitol Hill?
Actually, the AGA defends its choice of nomenclature by arguing that “gaming” is the term honored by time and usage, citing for support the Oxford English Dictionary, which dates it to the early 16th century. “Gambling,” on the other hand, an 18th century upstart, originated as pejorative slang. Not all sources agree on this, though. 
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language wonders if the two aren’t more closely allied, noting that “gamble” may have derived from gamel, a verb with roots in the Middle English gamen/gamenen (“to play”) and the Old English gamenian, which meant “fun”.
At any rate, our common understanding of “gambling” as an activity defined by material risk on chance outcomes, or at least uncertain ones, a hazardous enterprise resulting in the likelihood of material loss, and tainted as this is with images of avarice, recklessness, the fecklessness of fate and possible ruin, is too ingrained to admit “gaming” on an equal footing. One may go to a casino to “gamble” or to “play,” but to say one goes to “game” would indeed sound as archaic as the AGA inadvertently suggests.
This is enshrined in the very word “hazard,” which has come down to us to mean “a chance of being injured or harmed; risk or danger; a possible source of danger” (AHD, 5th edition) but started life as a medieval dice game, its name likely derived from the Arabic word for die: az-zahr. The association with sport survives on the golf course, where it’s often used to describe a sand trap or other obstacle. 
The association with gambling is retained rather unequivocally in continental Europe in the Spanish juegos de azar, the French jeux de hazard, the Italian gioco d’azzardo and the Portuguese jogos de fortuna ou azar and the German Glücksspiel.
In light of which, looking back to when Las Vegas took off after the Second World War and became attractive as a source of tax revenue, it’s not surprising that the powers that be in Carson City found it expedient to distance gambling as a business from gambling as a pursuit. In 1959 the Nevada Gaming Control Board was followed by the Nevada Gaming Commission. A generation later, the distinction was picked up by the University of Nevada’s renowned Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming, which was founded right around the time the industry was plowing full-bore into the mainstream of American culture with the opening of The Mirage and beginning to spread nationwide.
“Over time, industries gain or lose legitimacy through a complex process involving both cultural representations and individual responses to those representations,” write Humphreys and LaTour. “For example, marijuana seems illegitimate when grouped with so called ‘hard drugs’ like heroin in public service announcements, yet it begins to seem legitimate when associated with medical treatments in news coverage. When a product like Botox is framed as a poison on a television show … its legitimacy is called into question, yet it begins to seem legitimate when classified as a cosmetic procedure like a skin peel on reality television.” 
The big trick for the casino industry in this regard has been to find a way to frame the social fallout that has come with success and which has made it necessary to draw a still thicker line between the imagery. By the mid-’90s, when the industry had proliferated to such a degree that it was attracting unwanted attention from the federal government, Gamblers Anonymous had been in existence almost 40 years, the National Council on Problem Gambling for 25. “Problem gambling, gambling addiction, gambling disorder, pathological gambling,” all had entered the lexicon. “Responsible gambling” might have struck politicians and the public as oxymoronic, “pathological gaming” as silly. The response of the then-fledgling AGA: the National Center for Responsible Gaming, founded in 1996. “Responsible gaming” is a mantra the industry has invoked ever since.
With online gambling, though, fraught as it is with unique hazards, the forces of legitimation could find themselves facing an entirely less tractable beast. Yet the need to tame it in its largest prospective market is tremendous, and it will grow more urgent as more U.S. states endorse online “gaming”—which, as Humphreys’ and LaTour’s research suggests, they surely will.