2010 March 22 Monday
Press Lifted Stigma Of Casino Gambling?

Just how much of the decay in American culture is due to journalists legitimizing previously (and wisely) stigmatized behaviors and institutions? Newspapers either went along with or led the destigmatization of casino gambling.

Why do some consumption practices become legitimate while others remain stigmatized? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research looks at the way the public discourse regarding casino gambling has shifted in the last 30 years.

"In the last three decades, casino gambling in the United States has grown from a marginal practice to a thriving industry," writes author Ashlee Humphreys (Northwestern University). In the 1950s and early 1960s, one in nine people in the United States gambled in a casino each year, while in 2004, one in four people gambled at a casino. Casino gambling is now legal in 28 states.

Humphreys looked at the shifts in the way the press has represented casino gambling to explore the historical process of legitimization. She examined all newspaper articles with the word "casino" in the headline or lead paragraph from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today from 1980-2007. From this list of 7211, she chose a sample of 600, which she then coded and analyzed.

"I find that over the 27-year period of the newspaper discourse, four fundamental concepts structure talk about casino gambling: purity, filth, wealth, and poverty," writes Humphreys. "Three legal actions in 1976, 1988, and 1999, however, each mark a moment at which talk shifted due to the influence of some external event or institutional change."

According to Humphreys, before 1988, the categories of purity and filth dominated discussions of casino gambling. But regulatory changes in 1988 prompted a shift to public talk of wealth and poverty. "This reflects the beginning of the incorporation of casinos into dominant institutions of capital and government," writes Humphreys, "but the language of wealth and poverty becomes increasingly used to discuss issues of their establishment and operation."

Humphreys found that regulation and material changes in the environment affected media language. "I find that journalists, because readers interpret their coverage as representing reality, are able to shape consumer perceptions through selection, valuation, and realization."

Does the decay continue? Does it eventually turn around? Why? How?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 March 22 10:25 PM  Civilizations Decay

Black Death said at March 23, 2010 5:13 AM:

Plus, casinos buy a lot of ads in print and electronic media. But I'm sure that has no influence whatsoever.

Here in Michigan, at the tip of the recession's spear, we have lots of casinos, so obviously they produce prosperity. And they're opening more! When I mentioned to a friend that we didn't need any more casinos, he answered, "How can you object to a voluntary tax on morons?" Point made.

sf said at March 23, 2010 9:31 PM:

One thing that irritates me is that the word "gaming" has replaced "gambling."

miles said at March 23, 2010 11:42 PM:

Jerry Springer-like entertainment has de-stigmatized so much that people ought be ashamed of.

As SF noted, gambling has been re-branded as "gaming". Casinos have advertises heavily also, and are oft psychologically associated with Indian tribes now, so people can assuage their consciences when losing that the money went to a worthy cause in some cases. Vegas tried to become a surrogate Disneyland for a time in the 1990s and that led to a de-stigmatizing of the concept of gambling somewhat because of Vegas' newer family-friendly image of buffet-lines and roller coasters instead of hookers and casinos. Steve Sailer once noted that a lot of that early 00's money that got gambled away in Vegas literally came from home-equity loans and refinances, and once that mortgage bubble burst, Vegas seen a dramatic downturn. Its really stupid to gamble with borrowed money that you dont have unless you are a pro with a good mathematical chance at winning.

I never understood gambling. The levels of concentration to really be good at that (calculating probabilities in your head, focusing on other players tells and being mindful of your own) seem to be incongruent with "relaxation". What an awful way to spend a day-off.......in intense concentration, nervously wondering about losing a great deal of money against other human beings over cards.

INFIDEL said at March 24, 2010 6:32 AM:

Nothing wrong with gambling. Or sex. Or drinking alcohol.

It's none of your business that others enjoy themselves.

I hate self-righteous fascists that want to impose their morality on others.

I recently read a similar anti-gambling post on a leftist blog, talking about it as indecent and a regressive tax, and now here. WTF.

Daran said at March 25, 2010 1:19 AM:

Call it the 'James Bond' effect? Also, when the state starts running lotteries it is hard to maintain the stigma on gambling.

Big bill said at March 26, 2010 7:00 AM:

I'm sorry, infidel, it IS my business what other people do to entertain themselves. Always has been, always will be. I live in a culture, a society. I live with and around people whose behaviors affect me, oftentimes very deeply, as you will discover when you grow up.

And what's with that "fascist" stuff, anyway? Are we not supposed to be fascists. Is it wrong to think evil fascist thoughts? No live and let live? I think we should tolerate -- no, make that "celebrate" our differences, don't you?

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