The Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is any activity in which participants stake something of value on an uncertain outcome, like a coin toss, the roll of a dice, or a horse race. It can take place in many different settings, from casinos and racetracks to gas stations and church halls. People gamble for a variety of reasons, including social interaction, the excitement of winning and the desire to try out new strategies. For some, gambling can be addictive and cause harm. Problem gambling can affect a person’s physical and mental health, their relationships, work or study performance, cause them to get into trouble with the law or lead to debt and homelessness. It can also have a negative impact on the wider community through increased crime and reduced economic activity.

The literature on impacts of gambling focuses mostly on the financial, labor and health/wellbeing aspects of the activity. A public health approach to this issue offers a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of the impacts of gambling by examining costs at the personal, interpersonal and societal/community levels (Fig. 1). Personal and interpersonal level impacts are non-monetary and include invisible individual harms and costs, while society/community level external impacts are monetary, and can be general cost/benefits, the costs of problem gambling and long-term cost/benefits.

Taking a holistic view of the impacts of gambling, it is important to examine not only costs but also the positive effects. Research has shown that gambling can have a positive impact on socialization, skill development, and mental and physical well-being in the context of a healthy lifestyle. These benefits are often overlooked by researchers.

There are a number of ways to reduce your risk of gambling addiction. These include seeking support from friends and family, trying out a recovery program such as Gamblers Anonymous or joining a self-help group. In addition, you can practice other forms of entertainment that don’t involve gambling.

The majority of people who gamble do so responsibly. However, about 20 percent overindulge and incur significant debts, which can impair their ability to support themselves and their families. This is known as problem gambling. Problem gambling can affect a person’s mental and physical health, as well as their relationships, job or studies, cause financial stress, increase depression, and result in financial problems, such as bankruptcy. Problem gambling can also have a negative impact on the wellbeing of others, such as their family, friends and colleagues. This is known as a social cost. In general, there are four main causes of problematic gambling: