Gambling and Social Practice Theory

Gambling is a popular form of entertainment that involves wagering something of value on an event with the hope of winning something else of value. It is estimated that more than $10 trillion is legally wagered on gambling activities every year. While many people enjoy gambling, for some it can become a problem. If you are concerned about your own gambling habits, you can seek help from a mental health professional. To find a provider, visit the CUCRC’s online mental health care website. You can also call or text 2-1-1 to be connected to a trained helpline.

While there is a wealth of gambling research focused on individual behaviour, addiction, and cognitive impairment, there is a relatively small corpus of literature considering the wider socio-cultural and economic factors that shape and influence gambling practices. The use of a social practice perspective in harm reduction strategies could broaden this knowledge base by acknowledging that gambling is not just an aspect of someone’s personality, attitudes and beliefs but rather the performance of a complex nexus of practices.

Social practice theory suggests that five various forces can frame a nexus of social practices: the way a person performs these practices through an affective disposition (such as anxiety), general understandings and meanings about the world (e.g., understandings about family or work), the political economy through neoliberalism and globalisation and market ideology, products and technologies (such as betting applications), and the socio-cultural environment in which gambling is performed. The application of this theory to gambling could lead to a greater recognition of how the nexus of practices is continuously being shaped by changes in the gambling industry as well as changes in the wider socio-cultural, economic and regulatory environment that shapes these practices.

Several models have been advanced to explain pathological gambling, including behavioral-environmental reasons, the general theory of addictions, the reward deficiency syndrome, and a biopsychosocial model. These models are important because they can inform intervention and research strategies, public opinion and policy decisions, and the self-perceptions of gamblers themselves.

However, a psychiatric diagnosis of gambling disorder requires the evaluation of a range of clinical criteria by a licensed therapist or medical doctor. Those criteria include the damage or disruption of a person’s life, loss of control, preoccupation with gambling, and a desire to gamble. They also include symptoms such as irritability, restlessness and difficulty sleeping, or gambling as a way to escape from problems.

It is essential to remember that gambling is a risky activity, and any money won is not guaranteed. You can help yourself avoid the temptation of gambling by establishing a budget and only spending that amount of money each month. Moreover, it is recommended that you learn to relieve unpleasant feelings or boredom in healthier ways such as exercising, relaxing, socializing with friends who don’t gamble or taking up new hobbies. These methods can provide more satisfaction than the euphoria that can be experienced when gambling.