A.J. Pickles

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


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’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCambridge Online Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology
PublisherDepartment of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016

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