Gambling occurs when a person commits one or more valuable items (a ‘stake’) to an event or series of events packaged together, and where the result determines a loss or win at a rate agreed before the final stake is committed. The practice is or was not present everywhere and is often marginal in a given society, and some gambling variations escape the boundaries of this definition. Some include financial speculation within the phenomenon of gambling, but I do not cover that literature here. Anthropology has made valuable but often overlooked contributions to the study of gambling based on both comparative examples drawn from small-scale societies and marginalized peoples and by engaging critically with the gambling industry and concepts drawn from policy-oriented disciplines such as psychology, criminology, sociology, microeconomics, statistics, and the health sciences. In this entry four pioneering anthropological studies of gambling are summarized and compared. I then review current regional and thematic trends in the anthropology of gambling. Thereafter I review the anthropology of the gambling industry itself and the relationship of both to other disciplinary perspectives on gambling. I delineate some causes for the two-decade-long surge in the anthropology of gambling, and lastly suggest that the field has become rich enough to support new and original syntheses that would significantly enhance ‘gambling studies’.
|Title of host publication
|Cambridge Online Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology
|Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
|Published - 1 Sep 2016