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Keywords:

  • Betting shops;
  • London;
  • gender;
  • hegemonic masculinity;
  • geography of masculinity;
  • ethnography

Abstract

During fieldwork conducted with workers and customers in betting shops in London research participants consistently conceptualized betting shops as masculine spaces in contrast to the femininity of other places including home and the bingo hall. According to this argument, betting on horses and dogs was ‘men's business’ and betting shops were ‘men's worlds’. Two explanations were offered to account for this situation. The first suggested that betting was traditionally a pastime enjoyed by men rather than women. The second was that betting is intrinsically more appealing to men because it is based on calculation and measurement, and women prefer more intuitive, simpler challenges. I use interviews with older people to describe how the legalisation of betting in cash in 1961 changed the geography of betting. I then draw upon interviews with regular customers in order to show how knowledge about betting is shared within rather than between genders. Finally, I use my experience of training and working as a cashier to describe how the particular hegemonic masculinity found in betting shops in London is maintained through myriad everyday practices which reward certain kinds of gendered performances while at the same time suppressing alternatives. The article shows how particular spaces may become gendered as an unanticipated consequence of legislation and how contingent gendered associations are both naturalized and, at the same time, subjected to intense attention.