Cultures and spaces of convenience gambling


Michael Egerer & Virve Marionneau
Publicerad 22 Jan 2019

In European countries, the bulk of gambling takes place in easily accessible convenience spaces, such as shops, bars and local gambling arcades. Research on gambling locations has still tended to concentrate on destination gambling in casinos. We took a closer look at different types of spaces of convenience gambling in Finland and in France.

Do different types of convenience gambling locations encourage different cultural positions of gambling? In an article in Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, we studied two spaces of convenience gambling; special venues such as gambling arcades and everyday spaces such as supermarkets. In Finland both types coexist, but the latter is currently more common. In France, in comparison only few games are available in everyday spaces.

Gamblers’ attitudes to these locations were studied through group interviews with Finnish and French recreational gamblers. We wanted to do a comparison between a country characterised mainly by everyday convenience gambling (Finland) and a country in which special convenience gambling is more typical (France).

Convenience gambling and cultural theory

Gambling differs between cultural contexts, but the harm potential of different convenience locations has not been previously looked at from a cultural perspective. This kind of theoretical tradition is familiar from (Nordic) alcohol studies, in which different countries have been categorised depending on the frequency of drinking. In “dry” drinking cultures, typical of Nordic countries, occasional binge drinking is normal. In “wet” cultures, typical of Central and Southern Europe, drinking is moderate but frequent.

In our analysis of the gambler group interviews, we developed three indicators to characterise convenience gambling: “embeddedness of gambling in everyday life”, “types of convenience locations” and “acceptability of the gambling rausch”. Rausch is a German term and refers to individuals’ altered states of consciousness in their social setting. The concept allows grasping the multifaceted nature of the gambling experience for the individual and for the cultural community.

The location defines players

The cultures of convenience gambling differ between special and everyday gambling locations. In terms of embeddedness in everyday life, the French gamblers who mainly played in special convenience locations, saw convenience gambling as less absorbing, but also as a less regulated alternative to casinos. The Finnish players who would frequent convenience locations considered these opportunities so commonplace, that they had become the norm. Electronic gambling machines (EGMs) played an important role in the daily routines of the gamblers.

As for types of convenience locations, the Finnish participants did not distinguish between different types of venues. The French participants on the other hand, distinguished between everyday locations such as tobacco shops (lottery products) and special locations such as PMU bars (immersive horse race betting). Separating type of convenience gambling locations is important in the French gambling culture, in defining its players. The venue holds a different position in Finland, where convenience gambling is integrated in the daily routines of most players, regardless of their social background.

The experience of the gambling rausch also differed between the two contexts. While in both countries rausch was acceptable for some players, some groups were excluded. In France, these were customers of PMU bars, particularly if they were already in a precarious situation. In Finland, gambling rausch of pensioners was regarded in a negative light. Neither of the groups are the most active gamblers according to gambling statistics.

Our results suggest that this contradiction results from the role assigned to money. In France, the use of money was highlighted, whereas in Finland, the origin of money was important. Pensioners’ money emanates from social benefits. Gambling with such money can implicate gambling with other people’s money, i.e. money that is intended for upholding the welfare of the elderly population in society.

Reduced availability

The results can be translated into some policy implications in Finland. Currently, the Finnish gambling culture resembles the “wet” alcohol model (frequent and normalized), but the proposal to move EGMs to special convenience venues may direct it towards the French “dry” type (on occasions). This may decrease problems through reduced accessibility, but the policy also runs the risk of polarising gambling problems, particularly if convenience gambling continues to be characterised by EGMs.

The cultural positions to gambling are unlikely to change at the same pace as policies, and the Finnish convenience gambling culture is characterised by a general normalisation of gambling, independent of venue type. This suggests that rather than moving gambling opportunities from one type of venue to another, overall reductions in availability might be a better policy alternative.



Cultural theory, Gambling spaces

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