Hollywood has certainly played a role in glamorizing gambling. From The Hustler (1961) and Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995) to The Sting (1973) and the Ocean’s 11 franchise (2001 to 2018) it’s hard to argue that they haven’t piled on to the allure. To be fair, Hollywood has also shown the dark side of gambling addition. Movies like Owning Mahowny (2003) and The Gambler (1974) are a perfect example, although they serve less as a cautionary tale, but a reflection for problem gamblers:
“What’s great about The Gambler is that the title character is less obsessed with gambling than he is with danger, even self-destruction. His Axel makes bets simply to dig himself deeper and deeper into trouble, even arguing that, for him, the fun of betting is losing. That’s a perilous situation for a gambler, to say the least, but Caan sells us on Axel’s desperate chase for the next rush.”Vulture
With a number of new releases and in-development films about casino gaming and sports betting on the horizon, concerned individuals and parties are beginning to wonder if viewing could be harmful for those who suffer (or are recovering) from gambling addiction. It’s not a stretch to state that if the recent onslaught of gambling advertisements are contributing to increased gambling in America, that films glorifying the activity (even if indirectly so) could do so too.
Do these movies influence people’s behavior when they are vulnerable to gambling disorder, and if so, should they (you) close the curtain on viewership? Let’s review.
Why People Vulnerable to Gambling Disorder Should Consider Staying Away from Movies About Casino Gaming and Sports Betting
What Studies Say About Movies Influence on People’s Behavior
Research has shown that films influence our beliefs and behavior:
“The studies reveal the influence of films on people’s beliefs and opinions, stereotypes and attitudes. Movies can have a significant impact on gender and ethnic stereotypes, change attitudes towards certain groups of people and cause newly formed opinions on various issues.”National Library of Medicine
Additional research finds that Hollywood influence on our beliefs and behavior may even be more powerful when compared to being provided the same information from scientific bodies of work:
“Results generally suggest that audiences are more willing to accept normative evaluations from narratives than from more logical-scientific arguments and that a range of mediating and moderating factors influence this tendency.”National Library of Medicine
Not surprisingly, youth are particularly influenced by movies. In addition, in nearly all related studies, it’s reported that differences in attitudes before watching a movie cause differences in the effectiveness of the film’s impact. This only validates the concern for teens and problem gamblers who already find the lifestyle alluring.
Of course, operators understand the value that being featured in films has in attracting customers. Online sportsbooks are popping up everywhere in the big and small screen alike. BetWay has been heavily featured in Apple TV’s Ted Lasso (2020) while PaddyPower can be seen often in Magic Mike’s Last Dance (2023). In fact, there’s an online resource that tracks gambling product placement in film. The Bellagio certainly profited in their investment in the Ocean’s 11 franchise:
“Parts of 2004’s “Ocean’s Twelve” and 2007’s “Ocean’s Thirteen,” mostly involving Garcia’s Terry Benedict, also were filmed at Bellagio. The investment of the hotel’s resources in the trilogy’s first installment, though, is still paying dividends […] There’s not a day that goes by that people don’t come by Bellagio and talk about ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ ”Las Vegas Review Journal
“The online casino industry has become increasingly popular in recent years, and many online casinos have taken advantage of the opportunity to feature their brand in movies. These companies can use product placement, sponsored content, or other marketing strategies to showcase their brand and services.”FilmInk
Given that research has shown that individuals are somewhat influenced by what they watch on the “big screen”, and the fact that gambling operators are going all-in on product placement investment, it’s time for problem gamblers to screen what they watch.
Gambling Movies Contain Triggers
Regardless of where you land on the debate over how much influence movies have on behavior, there’s no denying that movies about gambling are loaded with emotional triggers for problem gamblers. These triggers can stir up strong emotions that lead to the impulse to gamble again and subsequently lead to relapse in recovery. It doesn’t do a problem gambler any good to be exposed to audio and visual cues of protagonists engaged in casino or sports betting activities and environments.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that we now live in a world where individuals and households receive recommendations of what to watch from algorithm-driven online streaming services. By watching just one film about gambling, a household or mobile device owner may be spoon-fed a wave of related films which inflates the risk of being exposed to triggers. If you or someone in your household has a problematic relationship with gambling, don’t watch films about gambling.
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