During the last decades of the 20th century, gambling profoundly changed by evolving from a residual and forbidden affair into a mainstream leisure activity, legalized and sold on large scale under the control of national governments. Casinos, lotteries and wagering-related games are today a global phenomenon from which in 2014 enterprises operating in this market earned more than 450 billion dollars of revenue net of prizes. This research project aims at analysing the evolution of public legal gambling since the mid-twentieth century. It does so from a field perspective based on Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical framework by conceiving gambling as a social arena where several players fight and/or cooperate for a stake which is the control over the field itself and the legitimation (or delegitimation) of gambling itself as a socially acceptable activity. Several categories of social agents are considered: the State in its role of the promoter and beneficiary of legalized gambling; concessionaries as economic players; non-profit social organizations and the media because of their contribution to the debate on gambling excesses; citizens, as essential providers of capital in the forms of both credence in the State’s authority and money spent on gambling; problem and pathological gamblers. The project is also intended to overcome both scientific and common-sense «filters» (e.g. the medical and economic interpretation of gambling, as well as its description from a bourgeoisie perspective that compassionate with gamblers as members of the lower classes) and to criticize the role of gambling within the Neoliberal contemporary economies and the ideology of alea. The research draws on an empirical socio-anthropological investigation of the Italian field of gambling as a basis for a comparison with other countries.
So far the project has produced the following outputs:
M. Pedroni, The «Banker» State and the «Responsible» Enterprises: Capital Conversion Strategies in the Field of Public Legal Gambling, Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, a. LV, n. 1, 2014, pp. 71-97
M. Pedroni, Much More than a Game: The Role of Commercial Advertising in the Struggle between the Advocates and Opponents of Gambling, in A. Ocaña (a cura di), Clashing Wor(l)ds: From International to Intrapersonal Conflict, Inter-disciplinary, Oxford (2016), ebook, pp. 83-96
A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE FIELD OF LEGAL GAMBLING