This website uses cookies to understand how you use the website and to improve your experience. By continuing to use the website, you accept the University of New England’s use of cookies and similar technologies. To learn more about our use of cookies and how to manage your browser cookie settings, please review our Privacy Notice.


What is the Difference Between Investing, Speculating, and Gambling?

Lecture Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Stuart Banner

Stuart Banner

For centuries, there has been a consensus that investing is useful and ought to be encouraged. There has been a consensus that gambling is dangerous and ought to be discouraged or even outlawed. But what about speculation, which lies somewhere between the two? Throughout American history, speculation has presented a puzzle to the legal system. To figure out how to treat speculation, we have always needed to distinguish between two kinds of risky commerce, a good kind the law should promote and a bad kind the law should deter. Drawing that line has never been easy, and it is no easier today. The difference between gambling and investing has always been a matter of controversy, from the crash of 1792 up through the recent financial crisis.


Stuart Banner is a legal historian who has written about a wide range of topics in American and British legal history. He graduated from Stanford Law School, where he was articles editor of the Stanford Law Review, and clerked for Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court. He practiced law at Davis Polk & Wardwell and at the Office of the Appellate Defender, both in New York. His books include The Baseball Trust: A History of Baseball's Antitrust Exemption (Oxford University Press, 2013); American Property: A History of How, Why, and What We Own (Harvard University Press, 2011); Who Owns the Sky? The Struggle to Control Airspace from the Wright Brothers On (Harvard University Press, 2008); Possessing the Pacific: Land, Settlers, and Indigenous People from Australia to Alaska (Harvard University Press, 2007); How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier (Harvard University Press, 2005); The Death Penalty: An American History (Harvard University Press, 2002); Legal Systems in Conflict: Property and Sovereignty in Missouri, 1750-1860 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2000); and Anglo-American Securities Regulation: Cultural and Political Roots, 1690-1860 (Cambridge University Press, 1998). He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Fulbright Scholar Program, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.​


WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion
716 Stevens Avenue
Portland, ME 04103

Assigned Reading

Stuart Banner, Speculation: A History of the Fine Line Between Gambling and Investing (Oxford University Press, 2017)


5 p.m. at the UNE Art Gallery (Portland Campus)


Stuart Banner Event Poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public