Social and cultural factors in the European gambling industry
Gambling in Europe is estimated to be worth € 89 billion. Legislation is not harmonised at EU level and national governments are moving between containment and revenue generation. In parallel, operators use evolving technologies to create new markets working within obsolete legislation. Professor Rebecca Cassidy proposes a new approach to gambling focusing on its social and cultural aspects rather than on its pathological implications.
Since the 1980s and until the financial crisis, risky methods of generating income and speculation became socially more widespread, particularly in the EU and the US. Participation in markets of various kinds including property and shares became markers of full citizenship. Changes in technologies and economic systems also contributed to the transformation of gambling, which came to be studied as an individual pathology. By focusing on quantifying and categorising gambling activity within national borders, this approach de-emphasised gambling that crosses borders, including the impact of virtual gamblers and tourism.
Prof Cassidy and her team propose an alternative. Their approach acknowledges the changing technological and transnational dimensions of gambling and at the same time embeds individual gambling decisions within their various social and cultural contexts. This alternative is based on an anthropological approach to questions such as the relationship between gambling and religion, gender, age or social class; or the impact of regulation on gamblers’ daily lives.
The research team focuses on four case studies representing some of the most important features of gambling in Europe and combining methodologies including participant observation to suit the overall research questions. The four case studies cover spread betting among financial traders in the UK, domestic and commercial gambling in Cyprus, the UK remote gambling industry and finally casino workers, gamblers and their families in the border region of Italy and Slovenia.
Results of these studies will produce high quality data which could help inform future policies and legislation on this activity, while allowing the enhancement of European research capabilities in that field. It also aims at forming the basis of a new approach that matches the dynamism and internationalism of the European gambling industry.