Qualitative analysis of the reflection of the mathematical dimension of gambling in gaming online content
Background and significance
Mathematics is strongly connected to gambling through the mathematical models underlying any game of chance. Mathematics is reflected not only in games' design/characteristics and their outcomes, but also in gamblers' perception and knowledge of the mathematics-related facts of gambling - which influence their gambling behavior. The math-indispensability principle (Bărboianu, 2013) applies not only in problem-gambling research, but also in the gambling industry. The structural, informative, strategic, psychological, pathological, and ethical aspects of gambling have been identified to be grounded in the mathematics of games and gambling (Griffiths, 1993; Bărboianu 2014, 2015; Turner & Hobay, 2004; Harrigan, 2009, and others).
Gambling-specific cognitive distortions (in the form of misconceptions, misunderstandings, reasoning fallacies, biases, false or irrational beliefs, or illusions, alone or mixed) are believed to be an important cause of the development of problem gambling and are considered as major risk factors (Lambros & Delfabbro, 2007; Leonard & Williams, 2016, and others). We have analyzed these cognitive distortions in relation to the mathematical dimension of gambling and found that most of them are mathematically related (Bărboianu, 2022, pp. 219-221).
An important element that shapes and influences the aspects of gambling mentioned above, especially cognitive distortions, is language. The language of gambling can be intentionally or innocently misleading, confusing or conflicting, largely due to the mathematical nature of the essential concepts governing gambling, but also to the nature of language itself. The language of gambling unavoidably uses mathematical and mathematically-related terms and as such is a mixed language and therefore predisposed to semantic conflicts. This language may aim toward descriptions of the games, of their associated strategies, for communication between gamblers and between gamblers and experts, and to express any observations or research results in regard to this phenomenon. The fact that some specialized terms belong or are tightly related to probability theory accounts for their conflicting potential in the gambling language, since the concepts of probability theory are sensitive to interpretation, despite their mathematical nature (Bărboianu, 2022, pp. 203-218). The problematic gambling language manifests in the activity spheres of developers, operators, gambling communities, information providers, experts (including problem-gambling experts), and gamblers' relationships with these people. This language affects the descriptions of games and gambling that the players actually use to become informed about the phenomenon; also affected are the communication between gamblers, and between gamblers and people from the gambling industry or experts as well as gamblers' own conceptual judgments related to gambling.
Goals and outcomes of the project
In this theoretical framework, research is able to derive concrete norms and criteria to adequately reflect the mathematical dimension of gambling in the communication and texts associated with the gambling industry. These norms and criteria of adequacy will be further communicated to policy and decision makers in both governmental and private sectors, with the recommendation for implementation. To have an objective and concrete image of the actual state of this matter in the online industry and of the challenges that such research and application would face in the real world of gambling, an empirical pilot study is first necessary "in the field."
The current project aims to evaluate qualitatively the reflection of the mathematical dimension of gambling in the content of gambling websites. A minimum number of 120 gambling websites will be reviewed annually for their content in that respect. A statistical analysis will record the presence of the mathematical dimension of gambling and its forms in the content of participating websites, and a qualitative research will analyze and assess the quality of the content with respect to that dimension. Monthly technical reports describing the partial results of the analysis will be published in PhilScience (and disseminated publicly via academic channels), and an article with final results will be submitted for publication in a gambling studies journal at the end of the year.
The current study is a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis, in which the latter is predominant and is given the central role.
The participants in the study (gambling websites, through their webmasters) are recruited through online advertising and direct invitations. The eligibility criteria include not having legally prohibited content, meeting the gambling legal requirements, and having informative content besides the games and games' rules (not casino only).
The quantitative analysis will use basic descriptive-statistics methods, summarizing the data recorded from the sample by standard statistical indicators, with the following main specific variables:
- the presence of structural descriptions of the games in parametric terms;
- the presence of informative sections ('How to' articles, blogs, guides);
- the presence of sections dedicated to odds/probability/math;
- the usage of general math terms specific to gambling (odds/probability, expectation, average/mean, etc.);
- the presence of the definitions of the math terms used;
- the presence of game strategy topics;
- the presence of advanced topics of gambling math
- the presence of systematic-learning or advanced content of gambling math (lessons, academy-style sections, in-depth guides, etc.).
- the correlation between the math-related articles and their authors' declared expertise.
The qualitative analysis will use as methods discourse analysis, content analysis, thematic analysis, conceptual interpretation, semantic analysis, doubt about sense, and analysis of arguments. It will have a strong component of linguistic-conceptual-logical analysis, targeting the following main elements:
- the usage of terms with non-uniform semantics;
- the contextual usage of math terms;
- the conceptual linkages relative to the relevance for the topic;
- the soundness of arguments based on applied math;
- the association between game strategy and the concepts of probability theory and game theory;
- the presence and contextual impact of "math-prohibited" or misleading terms (such as 'winning strategy', 'how to win', etc.).
Review of the websites and recording of data will be executed by the SI and the assistant, under the supervision of the PI. The PI and SI will gather the partial results and will interpret them cumulatively for creating the technical reports and conclusions to be presented in the main publication.
In text references:
Bărboianu, C. (2013). Mathematician's call for interdisciplinary research effort. International Gambling Studies, 13(3), 430-433.
Bărboianu, C. (2014). Is the secrecy of the parametric configuration of slot machines rationally justified? The exposure of the mathematical facts of games of chance as an ethical obligation. Journal of Gambling Issues, Vol. 29, 1-23.
Bărboianu, C. (2015). Mathematical models of games of chance: Epistemological taxonomy and potential in problem-gambling research. UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal, 19(1), 2.
Bărboianu, C. (2022). Understanding Your Game: A Mathematician's Advice for Rational and Safe Gambling. PhilScience Press.
Griffiths, M. (1993). Fruit machine gambling: The importance of structural characteristics. Journal of Gambling Studies, 9(2), 101-120.
Harrigan, K. A. (2009). Slot machines: Pursuing responsible gaming practices for virtual reels and near misses. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 7(1), 68-83.
Lambros, C. & Delfabbro, P. (2007). Numerical reasoning ability and irrational beliefs in problem gambling. International Gambling Studies, 7(2), 157-171.
Leonard, C. A., & Williams, R. J. (2016). The relationship between gambling fallacies and problem gambling. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 30(6), 694.
Turner, N. E., & Horbay, R. (2004). How do slot machines and other electronic gambling machines really work? Journal of Gambling Issues, Vol. 11.
PI: Cătălin Bărboianu, PhD
SI: Michael Grey, PhD student
Assistant: James Ross