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Calculating PromisesThe Emergence of Modern American Contract Doctrine$
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Roy Kreitner

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780804753982

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804753982.001.0001

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Wagering in Lives

Wagering in Lives

The Life Insurance Speculators

(p.126) Seven Wagering in Lives
Calculating Promises
Stanford University Press

In 1898, John Ashton declared that “theoretically,” insurance is “gambling proper.” Ashton views “innocence” in a way that does not distance insurance from the taint of gambling, but merely puts it into a class of gambling with no further negative effects. He raised two kinds of connections between gambling and insurance. The first connection involves cases where underwriters actually serve as bookmakers that “insure” against events in which policy holders have no direct stake and no direct contact. The second connection is the tendency of organized fraud, especially the so-called “confidence men,” to exploit gambling. Advocates of insurance, including insurance companies, emphasized the importance of distinguishing insurance from gambling in order to legitimize and popularize insurance, particularly life insurance. By the late nineteenth century, insurance companies often argued that policies were nothing but wagers in order to avoid payment. The debate on gambling was localized by a legal doctrine known as the doctrine of insurable interest.

Keywords:   John Ashton, insurance, life insurance, gambling, wagers, insurance companies, doctrine of insurable interest, confidence men, fraud, bookmakers

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