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Rebecca Cassidy 2020 Vicious Games: Capitalism and Gambling. London: Pluto Press.

No one knows better than Rebecca Cassidy the way in which betting has morphed into dangerous gambling, particularly in Britain, since the 1980s. She is an anthropologist who has worked and observed and talked endlessly to those who offer gambling, including in betting shops, both sleazy and posh. Her fieldwork has also extended overseas to Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Singapore, the USA and beyond, giving her book an international perspective.

She is left in no doubt that The UK has led the way in ‘light touch’ regulation of gambling. The social and personal costs of gambling have played a lesser role than the pursuit of business expansion and profit. She explains in detail how this came about, including the history behind the liberalising 2005 Gambling Act and the invention of the FOBTs. Vicious Games plots the transformation of British gambling in just a few years, from personal knowhow to algorithms and financial trading, from horse racing to in-play sports betting, from an enterprise that functions to circulate money to one that extracts it from individuals and communities.

This highly readable book is full of quotations which leave one in no doubt that the company bosses and managers are motivated to maximise losses and losers, and restrict winners, while spending huge sums on advertising which repeatedly talks of entertainment and the prospect of winning. Those with problems are spoken of in derogatory terms as ‘mugs’, people who have no common sense, who get addicted because they are weak.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the viciousness of modern gambling in 21st century Britain.


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