Außenansicht des D3 und des AD Gebäudes

Random Riches - Riitta MATILAINEN

Cultural and social meanings of gambling in the Nordic countries: A historical perspective

The presentation focuses on showing how historical constructions of gambling still resonate in the cultural and social meanings attached to gambling in the Nordic countries with an emphasis on Finland and Sweden. The main questions are: What are the shared cultural and social meanings concerning gambling in the Nordic countries? How do these conceptions differ from those in the rest of Europe and the world? Can there be talk of a “Nordic” gambling culture from the point of view of a casual gambler? The presentation is based on research literature dealing with gambling.


As a social historian, I feel the need to analyze the decisions, discourses and practices that have shaped Nordic gambling cultures into what they are today. However, I also want to take into consideration the “forgotten” and “wrong” discourses and practices that for various reasons never became the ones to dominate the way gambling is thought of or experienced in the Nordic countries.

I consider the following three factors to be of utmost importance when analyzing “Nordic” gambling cultures from a historical perspective: the influence of the Lutheran church, the system of organizing gambling through gambling monopolies, and the making and maintaining of Nordic welfare states (including the emergence of consumer society). These three factors are very closely linked and need to be discussed together in order to understand the big picture. The role of gender and class is also highlighted. The historical change in the social and cultural meanings attached to gambling confirms James F .Cosgrave’s point: “Gambling activities are no longer discursively constructed in religious and moral terms, but in economic, consumerist, and medical terms”.

is a graduate student of social history at the University of Helsinki, Department of Political and Economic Sciences. As a researcher she focuses on gambling in the Northern European countries.