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Jun 11

New article – Games of life and death

dice_deathThe recent issue of UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal includes an article of mine: Games of life and death: The judicial uses of dice in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Sweden (for details, see below).

Much of what I have written in recent years has been about problem gambling, but in this article I have returned to the anthropological perspective and taken up my interest for the history of gambling. I wrote the article in my leisure time just because I was fascinated by the topic; no specific funding was received.

In this issue of UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal you can also read about sports betting culture in Finland, and casino-related issues in the USA and China.
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  • Binde, Per. 2014. Games of life and death: The judicial uses of dice in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Sweden. UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal 18(1), 1-23.

ABSTRACT Gambling studies should take a broad view of the field and consider activities that are not strictly gambling but similar to it, such as cleromancy and secular uses of drawing of lots, to give us perspective on societal and cultural aspects of gambling. This paper presents historical data on judicial uses of throwing dice in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Sweden. The focus is on cases of manslaughter with multiple perpetrators who were considered equally guilty and were forced by the criminal court to throw dice to determine who should be executed and who should receive lesser penalties. Three principles are distinguished in judicial uses of throwing dice—cost-effective deterrence, lottery of pardon, and guilt-revealing cleromancy—and similarities and dissimilarities to present commercial gambling are discussed. It is argued that the polythetic notion of family resemblance is useful in gambling studies since it does not impose fixed conceptual boundaries between activities that share many elements.

> Read the article (open access)

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