Gambling and Social ControlA sociological study of the formation of a new control regime in the field of electronic machine gambling

How does social control take place in an increasingly digitalised world? Our new research project deals with this question using the example of electronic machine gambling in amusement arcades. The gambling industry is currently in a phase of fundamental change. Gambling halls are increasingly associated with terms such as gambling addiction, crime and urban deprivation. Politicians have reacted to this with new regulatory measures. In combination with new technological possibilities (e.g. biometric access controls, player tracking etc.), a new control regime is emerging in the gambling hall sector. We want to empirically reconstruct this process and analyse (a) how social control is initiated and institutionally enforced by politics, (b) how the affected gamblers react and (c) how companies respond to the control attempts. Further we will examine the obstacles of the implementation and how they try to avoid those.

The project will involve municipal case studies in North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Berlin. These are based on document analyses, expert interviews with representatives of the responsible local authorities, representatives of the slot machines associations, operators of gaming halls and with gamblers. Participatory observations in the gaming halls are also planned.

We are pursuing the perspective of a constructivist sociology of social problems and bases its interpretation of the collected data partly on methods of content analysis, partly on hermeneutic methods as well as on discourse analysis based on the sociology of knowledge.

With the field of electronic machine gambling, the project deals with an area of social reality that has so far been severely neglected by German sociology. We understand this area as a kind of laboratory of modified forms of social control, as they are also found in other social fields. An investigation of this area seems particularly helpful for us to gain a better understanding of what social control means in a media environment characterized by digitalization.