The Social Impact of Gambling

Gambling is risking something of value (money, property, goods or services) on an event with a random element. It includes games such as marbles, scratchcards and football accumulators, but it also extends to more sophisticated casino gaming, betting on horse races and other sporting events, or even speculating about business investments or stocks. Its main purpose is to win something, but it can also be enjoyed as a social activity with friends and family.

People who have gambling problems can come from all walks of life. It affects men and women, young and old, rich and poor, from small towns and big cities, of every race and religion. It can be caused by financial issues, or it can just be a way to escape from everyday problems and stresses. It can lead to addiction and even suicide. But treatment is available and has been shown to be effective. One type of treatment involves cognitive-behavior therapy, which teaches individuals to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. It has been proven to be especially effective with problem gamblers who have irrational beliefs, such as thinking that a series of losses or a near miss (two out of three cherries on a slot machine) will soon change into a jackpot victory.

In the past, studies have focused on economic impacts of gambling, such as revenues and profits, but fewer have looked at social costs and benefits. It is important to identify and measure these costs and benefits because they can be both harmful and beneficial to society. In order to do this, we need to know what factors make a person more or less likely to develop gambling problems, and how these factors vary by race, religion, gender, education level and income. This will help us design better prevention strategies, and better policies and programs to address the growing problem of gambling.

Whether or not gambling is legal, it has a huge impact on the lives of millions of people. It can affect their physical and mental health, relationships with family members and others, their ability to work or study, their financial situation – often leading to bankruptcy and homelessness – and their overall quality of life. It can also have long-term consequences that continue to affect them and their families well after they stop gambling.

The impact of gambling can be measured at three different levels: personal, interpersonal and community/society/societal level. The personal and interpersonal levels are mostly non-monetary, with the exception of external impacts that can be incurred by the gambler’s significant others (e.g., the increased debt, stress and depression). The society/community level has both visible external impacts and invisible internal costs/benefits, with external impacts including general societal real wealth loss and a cost/benefit burden on individual gamblers and their significant others. In addition, societal/community level effects can include the use of gambling revenues to finance public services and community development activities.