Date of Completion

4-17-2019

Embargo Period

10-14-2019

Keywords

aging, identity, personhood, anthropology, casinos, gambling, value, surveillance

Major Advisor

Francoise Dussart, PhD

Associate Advisor

Richard Sosis, PhD

Associate Advisor

Samuel Martinez, PhD

Field of Study

Anthropology

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access

Abstract

Casino gambling is becoming an increasingly popular activity among retirees in the surrounding communities. This project presents the results of two years of ethnographic fieldwork (2015-2017) with senior gamblers who regularly visit two of the United States’ largest mega-casino complexes. Although this form of recreation has generated significant public concern, I argue that the overwhelming majority of older adult gamblers do so responsibly, and also receive many benefits from their casino experiences. The abundance and variety of activities within these massive, all-inclusive facilities provides elderly and retired guests with the opportunity to make plans, socialize, and stay mentally and physically active. The extensive surveillance systems operated by the casinos are not perceived as intrusive, but rather provide a feeling of safety and security, especially for those seniors with mobility or medical issues. Through the digital surveillance of the player’s club card programs, older adult gamblers earn coupons, gifts, and other benefits based on their gambling spending. These rewards are often shared with family and friends, reinforcing social support networks and providing tangible benefits for money lost. Despite the unwavering profitability of the House edge, my findings from interviews and observations within these two casinos reveal that these spaces have become valuable for seniors who frequent them. This research contributes to ongoing conversations within anthropology, gerontology, and surveillance studies by describing the unique subjectivities of a demographic who has managed to exert a sort of tactical resistance against larger structures of ageism and surveillance to make valuable spaces-of-aging out of the most unlikely of settings.

Available for download on Monday, October 14, 2019

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