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Gambling and Sport

Ellis Cashmore

Subject Sociology of Leisure and Tourism » Sociology of Sport

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


There are two likely sources for the word gambling: the Old Saxon gamene , which became abbreviated to the contemporary “game”; or the Italian gambetto , source of “gambit,” a practice of sacrificing something minor in order to secure a larger advantage. Gambling now refers to playing games of luck or skill, using a stake, usually a sum of money, in anticipation of winning a larger sum. While gambling on sports is obviously a product of the growth of organized sports from the mid-nineteenth century, playing games of chance for money or staking wagers on the outcome of events probably dates back to antiquity. Modern forms of gambling emerged in connection with changing ideas about time and nature. As pre-Enlightenment thinkers advanced the notion that reason and rationality lay behind all earthly affairs, the roles of chance, happenstance or pure randomness were seen as increasingly problematic. In an ordered universe, ignorance of affairs was merely imperfect knowledge because everything was potentially knowable. August Comte's positivism was perhaps the epitome of this, recognizing only observable phenomena and rejecting metaphysics, theism, and anything else that lay beyond human perception. The emerging emphasis on science led to the conclusion that given greater knowledge, the seeming vagaries of nature could be comprehended and subordinated to the rational, calculating mind. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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