The Social Practice of Gambling
Gambling is an activity where people risk something of value, such as money or belongings, in the hope of winning something of greater value. It is an incredibly complex practice, and its impact on individuals and communities can be profound. There are a number of factors that can lead to gambling problems, including mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety and addiction to alcohol or other drugs. There are also a variety of social and cultural factors that can contribute to gambling behaviors. These include socio-cultural narratives around mateship, rituals and excitement, and the hedonism associated with gambling.
The definition of gambling varies by state, but it usually includes a game of chance, a wager and an element of skill or luck. This can include betting on sports events, horse or dog races and other sporting contests, casino games such as poker or blackjack, and a range of other activities that involve an element of risk and prize. Gambling can be an addictive activity, and it can result in serious financial, emotional and family problems for those who are addicted.
For those who suffer from compulsive gambling, treatment options include therapy and self-help tips. In addition to individual or group therapy, some people benefit from attending a peer support program based on the model of Alcoholics Anonymous. Other treatments for gambling addiction involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people to replace unhealthy thinking habits with healthier ones. This can help them to challenge irrational beliefs such as the illusion of control, chasing losses and the gambler’s fallacy that are common in those who struggle with compulsive gambling.
Changing one’s environment can help to reduce triggers for gambling behavior. For example, avoiding places where gambling takes place, reducing the amount of money in your wallet and changing television channels can all help to prevent an urge to gamble from developing. Additionally, trying to find healthier ways to cope with boredom or unpleasant feelings can be helpful. For example, exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques can all be healthy alternatives to gambling.
While the traditional psychological and economic models that underpin a gambling culture remain influential, there is increasing interest in using a social practice perspective to explore how gambling develops and is maintained. This approach looks at how a nexus of practices is shaped by social, cultural and regulatory forces.
For example, a growing corpus of research on the social construction of gambling has used qualitative approaches to explore how norms, discourse and rituals shape gambling behaviours. It has also utilised neuroscientific methods to measure brain responses and eye tracking to consider how people interact with FOBT machines. This, in combination with more traditional approaches, may offer new insights into how gambling can be understood.