The Social, Economic, and Personal Impacts of Gambling


Gambling involves placing a bet on an event that can result in winning or losing money. This includes betting on sports events such as football, horse racing or boxing, as well as games like roulette and blackjack that are played in casinos and brick-and-mortar gambling establishments. People also gamble on virtual games such as slot machines and online poker. The odds of winning in these games can range from a small amount to a life-changing jackpot.

Although many people enjoy a flutter on the pokies, lottery, or the horses, there are some who become addicted to gambling and may be suffering from a gambling disorder. Compulsive gambling can cause mental health problems and financial difficulties, and can even exacerbate existing ones. Some gambling disorders may be harder to recognize than others, as they often involve underlying psychological or psychiatric issues. For example, a person may lie to family members, therapists, or colleagues in order to conceal their gambling habit. A gambling addiction can also affect relationships and employment opportunities.

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to problematic gambling, including genetics, environment, and culture. Individuals with a genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviors, impulsivity and risk taking may be more likely to develop a gambling problem. Likewise, individuals who grow up in families where gambling is a normal pastime, or who are surrounded by a culture that values gambling may find it difficult to recognize and seek help for gambling-related problems.

Physiologically, when playing gambling games the brain produces dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that makes players happier and uplifted. The fact that this chemical is released during gambling activity explains why some people cannot stop, even when they lose.

Some studies have analyzed the positive impacts of gambling on society/community level, such as increasing gambling revenues that can be used for public services and other purposes, but less attention has been paid to personal and interpersonal effects. In fact, the vast majority of studies have ignored these impacts, and have focused on monetary costs or benefits that are easily quantifiable. This is a significant gap in the literature and presents a biased view of the issue.

Gambling has social, economic and behavioral impacts that should be considered by policy makers and gambling providers alike. A framework for evaluating gambling impacts has been proposed by Williams et al. The framework defines the class of impacts as negative or positive, and divides them into three classes: costs, benefits, and societal impacts. Costs are defined as any non-monetary effect on a gambler or their family, while benefits can be described in terms of a gambler’s improved quality of life. Lastly, societal impacts are those that aggregate societal real wealth and affect people outside the gambler’s immediate household. A good example of this is a gambler’s increased debt, which can impact relatives, friends, and co-workers. This is an important distinction to make when evaluating gambling’s impacts.