Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is uncertain, in the hope of winning something else of value. The activity takes many forms, including casino games such as card games and slots, fruit machines, video-draw poker, bingo and betting (including football accumulators and horse racing). It can also include betting on the outcome of a political election or lottery, and speculating on business or financial markets.
For many people, gambling is not a problem but for others it can be extremely harmful. It can damage their physical and mental health, relationships with family and friends, performance at work or study and leave them in serious debt or even homeless. The issue is also a significant cause of suicide.
While most research and harm reduction strategies approach the issue of gambling through psychological models of individual behaviour and addiction, a growing body of work is beginning to develop that recognises that there are multiple social and environmental factors that can contribute to an individual’s gambling habits. This is known as a practice theory approach.
A practice theory approach seeks to consider the ways in which activities such as gambling become habitual and routinised, and are enacted within everyday life rituals. It also seeks to consider the multifaceted nature of human practices, by considering the way in which a range of different elements (body and mind, materials, knowledge, norms, spaces and places, power, individual and collective agency) are woven together to form a nexus of ‘practice bundles’ that enact particular kinds of behaviour.