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Gambling as a Social Problem

Lucia Schmidt

Subject Sociology » Social Problems

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Gambling refers to wagering money or other belongings on chance activities or events with random or uncertain outcomes ( Devereux 1979 ). Gambling opportunities are now widely available throughout the world and playing with and for money is socially accepted as a source of entertainment and recreation. However, a growing tendency to highlight problematic aspects is also to be noticed. By its very nature, gambling involves a voluntary, deliberate assumption of risk, often with a negative expectable value. Traditionally, heavy gamblers who sustained repeated losses and other adverse consequences were considered derelict, immoral, or criminal. For much of the twentieth century, the prevailing view of excessive gambling continued to define that behavior as morally and legally reprehensible. Only a few decades ago, a new perspective on the problem came up in which the behavior in question is seen as a pathological one – as a form of addictive behavior in need of therapeutic treatment. The disease concept (at least partly) replaced former deviance definitions as a kind of willful norm violation, and excessive gambling increasingly is considered to be an expression of a mental disorder resembling the substance-related addictions. This change in perception has been strongly stimulated by – and reflected in – the evolving clinical classification and description of pathological gambling in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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