eral different approaches to the study of chance taking. Gambling can be examined in relation to the total social structure or to a particular part of the social system such as the legal system. The meaning of gambling from the perspective of the participant can be analyzed to determine individual or group motivation for betting. Finally, empirical research can be conducted to describe the characteristics of gamblers and their attitudes toward chance taking.
Each approach has both strengths and weaknesses but perhaps their greatest contribution is to point to avenues for future empirical and theoretical work. For example, illegal and legal gambling may be engaged in for different reasons by different types of people and should be examined separately. Gambling should also be considered in relation to other leisure activities that provide an opportunity for play, excitement, and consumption. The relationship between gambling and religion needs further delineation, as well as the relationship between gambling and work. The gap between the theoretical assumptions and the facts about gambling and its participants has been apparent throughout this chapter. Theories of gambling must be supported by empirical evidence if they are to be valid analyses of the role of gambling in society.
Gambling provides excitement and entertainment for participants. In the past, these aspects of placing bets have been overlooked or treated as secondary in importance to the financial desires for gain and upward social mobility. A more accurate perspective on gambling must emphasize that this is a leisure activity which provides consumers with an opportunity to directly engage in playing with money. One cannot deny that there are people who gamble compulsively or attempt to obtain wealth by taking chances on lotteries, numbers, horse races, and sports events. However, these participants may constitute a small proportion of all those who gamble in the United States.
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