The Political Economy of Gambling

Gambling involves betting something of value on an event that is determined by chance, with the intent to win something else of value. While this is generally considered to be a form of entertainment, for some people it can become an addiction. Those who have a problem with gambling can find that it affects their mental and physical health, relationships with family and friends, work or study performance, ability to pay bills, and may even lead to homelessness.

While there is a wealth of gambling research focusing on individual behaviour and addiction, there is a smaller but growing corpus of work that considers the wider socio-cultural, regulatory, and commercial environment within which gambling occurs [15]. Critical scholars have focused on the neoliberal infused political economy of the industry, arguing that globalisation, liberalisation and deregulation have led to the proliferation and marketing of gambling opportunities, as well as the normalisation of gambling as a legitimate leisure activity and consumer choice.

This article uses data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a large contemporary UK cohort study, to explore gambling behaviour and the antecedents of regular gambling among young people aged 17 years. ALSPAC participants completed computer-administered gambling surveys in research clinics at age 17, and again at ages 20 and 24 years. There was a substantial loss to follow-up and only 1672 participants answered all three gambling surveys, resulting in a small sample size. The fully adjusted model indicated that individuals who regularly gambled at age 17 were more likely to be male, have higher sensation seeking scores, and be unemployed or not in education.