Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lorne Tepperman's "Betting Their Lives"

Lorne Tepperman is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and is the author of many important books on sociology in Canada.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Betting Their Lives: The Close Relations of Problem Gamblers, and reported the following:
Someone opening my book Betting Their Lives to page 99 would, at first, be puzzled: for this page contains short quotes from Latin American immigrants to Canada. Though puzzling at first, these quotes make an important point that is key to understanding the entire book.

Betting Their Lives is about the reasons people become gambling addicts, compulsive gamblers, or “problem gamblers,” and the ways this gambling addiction affects their family life -- especially, their marriage. It also addresses the role a spouse can play in helping an addict overcome this addiction. It approaches this issue from a sociological standpoint, which is unlike the psychological approach taken by most researchers and therapists. This means the book focuses on the social learning of gambling. It is concerned with the “normality” of gambling, even excessive gambling, and the social determinants of this social problem. So, the book focuses on the family experiences of problem gamblers, as children and as adults. And it focuses on the ways different cultures, communities, and families encourage or discourage gambling.

This it does, in part, by listening to the voices of gamblers from a variety of ethno-cultural backgrounds – Anglos, Hispanics Chinese, Russian, West Indian, and Aboriginal. The data show that members of different ethnocultural communities run different risks of gambling addiction. In turn, this points to important group differences in beliefs about gambling, opportunities to gamble, and incentives to gamble (such as poverty). And, if the causes of gambling addiction are largely social and cultural, then we must make a collective, societal effort to deal with the problem. We cannot leave it to individuals to “get treatment” if they have a gambling problem. Problem gambling is a public health problem, needing a political solution.

In the long-term we need to regulate the gambling industry, including the ways gambling is advertised; we need to re-think the role of government in gambling (i.e., should governments rely on gambling for revenue, as they do increasingly today?); and we need to be more cautious about creating gambling inducements for particularly vulnerable populations (e.g., the young and the old, the housebound, and the impoverished). Meanwhile, we need to help spouses enter the “secret worlds” of problem gamblers, from which they are typically excluded. If the long-term solution is through legislation, the short-term solution is through new marital relationships.
Read more about Betting Their Lives at the Oxford University Press website.

Learn more about Lorne Tepperman's teaching, research and publications.

--Marshal Zeringue