Escape mechanism: Women, caretaking and compulsive machine gambling

Abstract

In this working paper I explore the links between caretaking responsibilities, video poker machines, and female compulsive gambling. Drawing on ethnographic observations and interviews with women video poker addicts in Las Vegas, I suggest that they have discovered a highly addictive mechanism of escape from what they experience as an excess of relational demands at home and at work. The aims of this paper are twofold: (1) I argue that the desire for such an escape is symptomatic of unresolved anxieties and tensions surrounding the place of care in our discursively individualist society, and, (2) I argue that the gaming industry, by engineering consumer technologies that capitalize on this desire, is implicated in the phenomenon of machine addiction among women. These arguments offer alternatives to a neoliberal understanding of excessive gambling as poor exercise of "free choice" and a related biomedical understanding of excessive gambling as a genetically based "pathology."

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