ABSTRACT

So far we have been talking about gambling as a material phenomenon: in various ways as consumption, as leisure, as something that is bought and sold in capitalist enterprise as though it were just another type of commodity. But it is more than this. It is a form of consumption, but it is a special type of consumption, with a unique experiential component. It is the purpose of this chapter and of Chapter 5 to provide a description of the nature of this experience. This takes us from an analysis of the formal properties of particular types of games to an examination of that which is general across all forms of gambling. Obviously, such a portrait is bound to be, to a certain extent, an ideal type-an attempt to go beyond the specific and the particular to discover something about gambling which is general and fundamental. Therefore many of the assertions made will not apply to all gamblers or to all forms of gambling, but it is hoped that they will at least say something about them which will reveal the common features which link their varied historical expressions.1 In a very broad sense then, these two chapters will focus on the experiential aspects of gambling in an attempt to provide some kind of answer to the question: What is it like to play at games of chance?