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ARE GAMBLING and SEXUAL BEHAVIORS CONNECTED?

 

gamandsex_544_03

Photo By: Vince Neill
By: Pete Allman

Is there a link between gambling and sex? That question was intriguing when I heard screams and shrieks of delight emanating from within the casino walls, as if one were having a peak sexual experience. I theorized that both gambling and sex might lead to orgasmic heights. A research study had never been accomplished to see if there were similarities between gambling behaviors and sexual behaviors. Las Vegas, with its legalized gambling and never-closed casinos, was the perfect place to study the gambling and sexual behaviors of its local residents. As a Sexologist and Researcher,
I am increasingly aware of the number of retirees moving to Las Vegas.
Therefore, I decided to choose a population base of those over the age of 55.

Previous studies performed on gamblers focused on the problem gambler, the one who was out of control and couldn't stop until all their money was gone. Las Vegas has a multitude of compulsive gamblers, as the many branches of Gamblers Anonymous can attest. For many of these people, gambling takes precedence over everything else in life. Gambling seems to be their main thrill, even more important than sex. However, I wanted to study recreational gamblers, the ones who played the games because they were enjoyable, not those whose lives revolve around gambling activities.

Primarily I observed, time and again, that certain actions by gamblers and the terms they used seemed to have sexual connotations. I wondered if that had any impact on one's actual sex life. I questioned whether gambling was a substitute for sex? Did it act to fill a void for sex, or was it perhaps a kind of foreplay for later intimacies?

After 2 1/2 years of investigation, I finished a 235-page book with 100 pages of statistics now in the special collections department of the UNLV library.

WHAT GAMBLERS SAY AND DO AS THEY PLAY
When shooting craps, players sometimes kiss the dice before they throw them. If they want them to fall a certain way they ask them to "come," or if an opponent is playing they tell the dice, ?don't come.? As a good luck talisman, some men playing craps have been observed touching the dice to the bosom of a female companion. Failure to win a hand at cards after playing for a while might prompt a person to say, "I'm still a virgin." Women playing cards have been seen rubbing their cards across their bosoms and genital area for luck. Men, on the other hand, tend to frantically play with their chips at card tables. This activity might be likened to masturbatory behavior, as the activity usually becomes faster and more frenzied as the game progresses. I've heard expressions such as, "Gambling feels as good as sex? or, "I would rather gamble than have sex," voiced by gamblers from time to time.

HOW ALIKE ARE GAMBLING AND SEX?
Actually, there is a definite analogy that can be applied to the two activities. In both gambling and sex, people are seeking thrills and pleasure. The sexual response cycle of excitement, plateau, climax and resolution is found in gambling too. Excitement is stimulated when one starts to play a chosen game such as slots. When the reels start rolling, so does the person's excitement level. A plateau is reached as one becomes increasingly aroused with the game, perhaps holding their breath as the outcome is uncertain, but the anticipation is for winning. (E.g., if first one and then another seven comes up) The climax with its orgasmic response if winning (777), and the release of tension regardless of the outcome occurs when the game concludes and one knows whether they have won or lost. In the resolution phase - the return to an unstimulated state - a decision is made whether to continue to play or quit. (Similar to a sexual encounter.)

To study this phenomenon, I developed an 89-item questionnaire, which grouped subjects according to their gambling and sexual behaviors, values, and attitudes. Using specific gambling and sexual activities, I analyzed the type and frequency of gambling behaviors as compared to the type and frequency of sexual behaviors. Actually, similar questions were asked using the key word of either 'gambling' or 'sex'. Three hundred questionnaires were personally

 

distributed in gambling casinos, senior centers, single's clubs, retirement centers, community centers and religious and charitable organizations. It was extremely difficult to approach people about their sex and gambling habits, and I also had to be sure they were locals over age 55. I had a number of refusals, some rather hostile. However, I was teaching at the college at the time, and it helped when I identified myself and professional qualifications to do the research.

WHAT THE FINDINGS REVEALED
After analyzing the data some of the findings were:

Age: The youngest group, 54-61, were the most sexually involved; whereas the oldest group, 68-90, preferred gambling to sex.

Relationships: Those in short-term relationships, 1-19 years, were more sexually involved (the longest relationship was 57 years). Those with below average relationships were more turned on by gambling than sex, while those with above average relationships were more sexually involved. (Partner's ages ranged from 28-83). An interesting aspect of the study revealed that when a relationship was within the past 1-10 years, usually the woman was older than the man.

Marital Status: People who were never married were the most involved in both gambling and sex, closely followed by the divorced and separated group. However, married people were more involved with hugging and kissing, and were more satisfied with their sexual frequency.

Education and Financial Status: The college educated group and those with incomes from $45,000-$60,000 were more involved with both gambling and sex than those with less education and lower incomes.

Employment Status: Retired people were less sexually involved than those working full-time.

Smoking: Regular smokers were the most involved in sex and gambling and had more positive sexual attitudes.

Alcohol use: Habitual drinkers were the most sexually involved and had the most sexual problems.

High Sexual Frequency: This group was more sexually turned on when gambling and had more sex after gambling, whether winning or losing.

An interesting aspect of this research is that a person's attitude toward life affected their gambling and sexual behavior. Those with positive attitudes still found sexual involvement important, while those with negative attitudes turned to gambling instead. Another aspect of the research that was illuminating was that those with high sexual involvement found gambling to be somewhat of a turn-on, and had more sexual encounters after gambling than others in the study.

In researching the literature about gambling, I found an interesting concept about compulsive gamblers - that they had an unconscious desire to lose when they gambled. This theory was based on Freud's Oedipal Complex in which the concepts of luck are symbolically parental representatives, as in 'Lady Luck' and 'Father Fate'. It seems that Freud had theorized about patricide (killing of the father) and gambling, with a patient who was a pathological gambler. The Oedipus Complex came about from the story of Oedipus, who was so obsessed with seducing his mother the Queen, that he killed his father, the King, in order to get to her. Afterwards, he was so guilt-ridden that he blinded himself by tearing out his eyes.

The Oedipal Complex is equated to the attempts made by the compulsive gambler to seduce or woo `Lady Luck'. Like Oedipus, the gambler is always after the `big killing' which is symbolically killing the father (Father Fate). This provokes guilt, so just as Oedipus blinded himself; this type of gambler blinds himself to his excessive losses, regardless of the consequences. However, if he loses, this is his punishment and he is then relieved of the guilt. Many theorists after Freud have continued to endorse this concept.