Legal gambling and problem gambling as mechanisms of social domination? Some considerations for future research

Abstract

Sociological attention to gambling has been long-standing but sporadic and limited both methodologically and theoretically. This article argues that recent changes in attitudes and laws about gambling and new efforts to measure and remediate the psychosocial costs and effects of problem gambling have combined with contemporary forms of wealth redistribution and racial and class oppression to produce a new mechanism of social domination. This mechanism of social domination has several facets, the most prominent of which are a structural economic component and a symbolic construct component. The structural economic componentthe transfer of wealth from the poor to the richhas been facilitated, at least in part, by the symbolic construct component, by which we mean the disproportionate labeling of certain minorities as "problem gamblers." Although we present some data to support these arguments, a great deal more research is needed to improve understanding of the social structural and symbolic effects of the recent rapid spread of legal gambling.

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