Are gamblers really risk takers

Australian Economic Papers
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Economic Papers, 1987, 26 (49), pp. 237 - 253
Issue Date:
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This paper examines the attitudes of gamblers to risk as displayed by their betting behaviour on horse races. Although traditional economic theory assumes that individuals are averse to risk, numerous authors (e.g. Ali 1977; Asch, Malkiel and Quandt 1982; Snyder 1978 and Weitzman 1965) have produced empirical evidence to suggest that gamblers are in fact risk takers. This paper presents empirical evidence not inconsistent with these previous findings but proceeds to put a different interpretation on the results. In particular, we extend the traditional two moment utility model to include skewness. Arditti and others (Arditti 1967, 1971) have suggested that well-informed risk-averse equity investors should prefer positively skewed return distributions. Although the importance of positive skewness to these investors has been questioned (Francis 1975), we find that it is a characteristic that is strongly favoured by those who gamble on race horses. However, the introduction of skewness cannot alone explain another trait of these gamblers their willingness to participate m an activity which promises a negative return. In Section II we describe the data collection procedures and the method used in this study. The results reported in Section III are consistent with those in previous studies which concluded that gamblers are risk-takers. In Section IV the discussion of these results is extended to include skewness. The issue of why gamblers participate in a negative return activity is addressed in Section V. We conclude with a brief summary of our principal findings.
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