Gambling and the Social and Cultural Context in Which it is Practiced

Gambling involves betting something of value, usually money, on an outcome that relies on chance, such as a lottery ticket or a game of cards. People often gamble to win money but some people become addicted and can be seriously harmed by their gambling. If you’re concerned that your gambling is out of control, seek help. There are a number of organisations that can provide support and advice for people with gambling problems, including free debt advice from StepChange.

Most gambling is done privately, such as playing card games with friends in a home setting or betting on sports events like football matches and horse races with friends. Some people also gamble online. However, many people don’t realise that the odds of winning a particular game are always fixed by the house (the casino or gambling website) and the more you gamble, the more likely you are to lose.

Research on gambling is predominantly framed through psychological and economic models of individual behaviour and addiction, with only a small but growing corpus of work considering socio-cultural influences [1, 4]. This may partly explain why interventions to reduce gambling harm are largely based on psychological and financial strategies aimed at individual behaviour change. A more effective approach would be to consider how to address the wider social and cultural context in which gambling is practiced – a practice theory agenda. Practice theorists have drawn attention to how five different forces can frame a nexus of practices, e.g., affective dispositions (e.g. pleasure, fear), general understandings of work and family, market ideology and neoliberalism.