Dr Darragh McGee is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Bath, UK. His research employs ethnographic modes of inquiry to examine the politics of youth wellbeing and human rights as they intersect with globalization processes. Current research include the examination of the social, economic and health impacts of online sports gambling among young adult males in the UK. This project is funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme grant.
Online sports gambling has become an integral part of male youth cultures across the UK. Fuelled by advances in smartphone technology and the liberalisation of prohibitions on gambling advertising, this ‘gamblification’ of sport has given rise to an accelerated culture of speculative consumption in which the casual staking of money is an essential accompaniment to ‘watching the game’. While often marketed as skilful, risk-free form of leisure-oriented lifestyle gambling, this ethnographic project explores how the growing use of such mobile app technologies has impacted on socio-cultural attitudes towards, and participation in, sports gambling practices among young adult males. Overall, the findings speak to how the ‘facelessness’ of online sports gambling, coupled with the growth of a global ‘24/7’ market for sports gambling opportunities, has given rise to a new generation of youth gamblers, many of whom view gambling as an alternative route to wealth, social capital and masculine affirmation. In a field dominated by biomedical categorisations of ‘problem gambling’, the richly ethnographic insights provided open up hitherto unexplored insights into the social life of online sports gambling, inverting the interrogative gaze through a sociological analysis of the political-economic and technological processes which shape the meaning of gambling practices in situ.