Gambling Essay

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While gambling is widely accepted today as a source of entertainment and recreation, a growing tendency to highlight problematic aspects is also to be noticed. Traditionally, heavy gamblers who sustained repeated losses and other adverse consequences were considered derelict, immoral, or criminal and for much of the twentieth century the prevailing view of excessive gambling continued to define that behavior as morally and legally reprehensible. A few decades ago, a new perspective emerged in which gambling is seen as pathological – as a form of addictive behavior in need of therapeutic treatment. The disease-concept (at least partly) replaced former deviance-definitions as a kind of willful norm violation, and excessive gambling increasingly is considered to be an expression of a mental disorder resembling the substance-related addictions. Since 1980, this change in perception has been strongly stimulated by – and reflected in – the evolving clinical classification and description of pathological gambling in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The medicalization-process was initiated in the USA by a self-help group named Gamblers Anonymous (GA). Soon, GA formed alliances with medical experts and a small circle of problem gamblers and professional claims-makers started to bring public attention to the problem. The National Council on Compulsive Gambling (since 1989: Problem Gambling) served as a model for similar organizations in other countries, and researchers and politicians became further influential actors in the social construction of the new disease.


  • Schmidt, L. (1999) Psychische Krankheit als soziales Problem. Die Konstruktion des Pathologischen Glucksspiels (Mental Disorder as Social Problem: The Construction of Pathological Gambling). Leske & Budrich, Opladen.

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