Production and consumption of recreational gambling in twentieth-century Finland

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Gambling is a ubiquitous phenomenon in Finland although only a less than a
century ago lotteries in goods were the only legal form of gambling. This
research explains this change. The focus of the research is on legal,
commercialized gambling and on recreational gamblers instead of problem
gambling or problem gamblers, because the field of gambling studies has
traditionally focused on problematic aspects of gambling. The time period of
the study stretches from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first one, but the
focus is mostly on the twentieth century. The research question is
multifaceted. The research focuses on the question of the cultural, social, and
historical place of a phenomenon understood as gambling in a certain timespatial
context (in this case the Finnish society in the nineteenth, twentieth
and twenty-first centuries). The research asks how gambling and discourses
and practices related to it have become to what they are and how they are
experienced today: Why and how was gambling tamed to be part Finnish way
of life; what has been gambling’s social, cultural, and economic significance to
its practitioners, and what can research done on gambling tell about the
history and changes of the Finnish society in the period? The objective of the
study is to historicize gambling’s place by researching discourses and practices
related to the ensemble understood as gambling from the theoretical
perspective of Michel Foucault’s dispositif.
To answer these questions a variety of qualitative data has been used. The
idea has been to explore the ensemble understood as gambling from the
perspectives of production (the regulation of gambling, gambling operators,
technological changes affecting gambling), and consumption (the gamblers).
The data include contemporary official memorandums, newspaper and
magazine articles, archive material by two Finnish gambling monopolies
Veikkaus and RAY, various collections of oral history data, Finnish fiction, and
auto-ethnographic observations. The main method of the research is historical
approach, which means using diverse and fragmented sources with a
commitment to their relevance, reliability and validity and to different
longitudinal and qualitative methods that recognize the possibility of change.
The research results show that the history of Finnish gambling can be
formulated into three dispositifs: prohibition dispositif, common good
dispositif, and risk dispositif. These dispositifs describe solutions to the
"problem" of gambling that are contingent upon the socio-temporal
circumstances of the Finnish society. The dispositifs reveal how gambling has
been understood, practiced, and regulated in certain periods, and they are also
indicators of the change concerning gambling that has taken place in Finland.
It is argued that in an international comparison, gambling in Finland was both
legalised and tamed quite early and exceptionally successfully. Especially the
Finnish state has had a quite unique role in taming gambling: Gambling
defined good citizen-ship and the state actively promoted it in many ways
decades earlier than similar processes were underway in Anglophonic
The theoretical ambition has been to take part in the international
discussion in the field of gambling studies regarding gambling’s historical
place, taming processes and gambling as consumption in Western societies in
the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and to give an example of
the usefulness of the concept of dispositif, and demonstrate both the value of
comparative approach and of oral history data for the field of gambling studies.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-951-51-3281-9
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-3282-6
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2017
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 5202 Economic and Social History

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