New state, old vices
: the everyday dimensions of gaming and gambling under the Portuguese Estado Novo, 1933-1974

  • Yannick Lengkeek

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis explores the dynamics of class segregation as well as questions of agency and autonomy under the Portuguese Estado Novo regime through the analytical prism of adult gaming. Taking ongoing debates about the exceptional longevity of Salazar’s dictatorial government as a starting point, the argument presented in this dissertation seeks to expose quotidian mechanisms of repression and moral policing not only ‘from above,’ but also highlights the importance of games and playful practices as powerful sites of interaction between citizens, where moral values, social status, and concerns about idleness were constantly contested.

Traditionally, historiographical debates on lived experiences of dictatorial rule in Portugal and the ideological framework of the Estado Novo highlight the regime’s staunch moralism. Yet, a close examination of widespread and morally tainted practices like gambling, lottery play, and billiards shows that the regime’s ideals of what constituted acceptable behaviour were not uniformly applied. Instead, the government adopted a pragmatic, class-specific approach, where government responses to games were tailored to the social status of those who played them as well as the spaces they took place in. This class-based discrimination was mirrored in the legal framework that sustained Portugal’s remarkably lenient licensing system for casinos (even compared to Western democracies until the late 1960s), leaving working-class gamblers with no other legal alternative than the national lottery, which was heavily gendered, tapped into pervasive religious and charitable connotations, and complemented the regime’s mixed moral messaging. In the case of billiards, some local authorities sought to discredit these games 'from below,’ linking them to classist discourses about bars and taverns as ‘distasteful’ spaces that were incompatible with Salazar’s image of the model citizen. Together, these three case studies situate the Portuguese Estado Novo within broader debates about leisure and resistance against the enforcement of moral standards under dictatorial rule.
Date of Award15 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorKate Ferris (Supervisor)


  • Everyday life history
  • History from below
  • Gambling studies
  • Lottery
  • Modern Portugal
  • Estado Novo
  • Salazar
  • Games
  • Play theory
  • Santa Casa da Misericordia
  • Billiards
  • Dictatorship
  • Fascism
  • Authoritarianism
  • Portuguese
  • Leisure studies
  • Idleness
  • Morality
  • Class
  • Gender

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 8 February 2028

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