Gambling: Mapping the American Moral Landscape
boisi center for religion and american public life
To be published by Baylor Press, 2009.
From the Introduction
By Alan Wolfe and Erik Owens
There is no subject more pressing than the role of gambling in American life, yet for many years the academic attention paid to it has been uneven at best. In 2005, the American Gaming Association estimated total revenue from gambling at $84.65 billion for the year. Specific sectors of the industry like American Indian casinos accounted for $22.62, and state lotteries in Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut have brought $4.4 billion a year, $3.6 billion, and $970 million. The sums are fantastic and testify to just how ubiquitous gambling has become in American society. Yet for years, sociologists ignored its impact on the family, historians (save for a precious few) were more interested in prohibition or prostitution, and economists treated gamblers as more likely to be addicted or obsessive than motivated by considerations of rational self-interest.
The editors of this book understand that academic interest in gambling will never grow at the same rate as gambling itself. Nonetheless we are convinced that there is an increasing interest across many academic disciplines in the phenomenon and that, as a result, we are beginning to develop the tools to understand why it has become so much part of American culture – as well as what the consequences of that fact are likely to be. Gambling and the American Moral Landscape originated as a conference at Boston College that sought to bring together experts from a wide variety of backgrounds to analyze the role gambling plays in American life. Some of those we invited were specialists on the topic. Others were experts in fields such as theology, moral philosophy, and sociology who had not written on the topic before but were intrigued by the prospect of addressing it from the perspective of their discipline. The conference was well-attended, exciting, and newsworthy. We hope the book will be as well.
Why is gambling so accepted in the U.S. when other one-time vices, like smoking and drinking, continue to evoke morality-based opposition? That simple but intriguing question guides this path-breaking volume, the first interdisciplinary academic study of gambling. Led by the renowned Alan Wolfe and with essays by experts at the country's premiere centers in public policy, clinical addiction, law, gaming, psychology, sociology, moral philosophy, theology, and the arts, Gambling: Mapping the American Moral Landscape is a tour de force examination of this booming cultural and moral phenomenon that is so intricately woven into the fabric of American life. Both an attempt to understand gambling and an effort to predict its future consequences, the book is evocative and critical reading for American civic and church leaders, activists, historians and government officials.