Gambling As a Social Practice

Gambling involves betting something of value on an uncertain event with the intent to win a prize. It is a widespread activity across societies, from the purchase of lottery tickets by people with little to no money, to the sophisticated casino gambling of the rich. It can be a source of entertainment, provide a thrill and the potential for winning big, or lead to addiction and significant harms. It can impoverish families, cause debt and homelessness, undermine mental health, affect work and study performance, and impact on relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and community.

While a lot of gambling research has focused on individual behaviour and addiction, there is also a growing corpus of research considering gambling as a social practice [1]. This approach views gambling not just as an aspect of personal personality, attitudes, values or beliefs, but as the way these are performed in and alongside other aspects of life such as work, shopping, leisure, and even family rituals.

Harm reduction strategies could benefit from a shift towards this type of holistic, multi-faceted approach. This would involve addressing how the availability, form and interaction of all these elements of gambling influence practices, as well as exploring the social constructs that underlie them, such as hedonism, mateship, winning and success, and power. The use of these constructs in the marketing of gambling products and services is often subtle, but powerful – they can be used to appeal to our sense of fun, desire for adventure, and thrills, as well as to our anxieties and feelings of loss, fear, and boredom.