The Impact of Gambling

Gambling involves placing something of value, such as money or an item, on the outcome of a random event. While many people can enjoy gambling for fun or as a form of entertainment, others are at risk of developing an addiction to it. The nature of this addiction is complex and it has a significant impact on individuals and society. Understanding this impact and taking the appropriate steps to minimise it are important. Various forms of gambling are used: lotteries, casino games (e.g., blackjack and roulette), sports gambling, and social gambling.

Gamblers gamble for several reasons: to win money, to socialise with friends, to escape their problems or to get a rush of excitement. The latter is a result of the brain’s release of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Although the excitement from gambling is short-lived, the brain’s reward system may become dependent on this chemical, leading to addictive behaviour.

Other factors that can trigger problem gambling include a person’s predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviour, impulsivity and lack of ability to make sound decisions. Some individuals also have an underactive brain reward system, which may interfere with their ability to control impulses or weigh risks. In addition, some cultures view gambling as a social activity, making it difficult for them to recognize when they have a gambling problem.

People who have a gambling problem often experience adverse consequences in their daily lives, including relationship and family conflicts, financial difficulties, job loss, debt, health issues, emotional distress, and suicide. These effects are known as harms and are a central part of the gambling harm assessment framework. However, assessing the impact of gambling on society requires an approach that considers both costs and benefits. The current state of research into the impacts of gambling is fragmented and there are differing opinions on the best methodological and theoretical approaches. In particular, there is debate about the appropriate unit of measurement for costs and benefits.

While the costs of gambling are relatively straightforward to quantify, estimating benefits is more difficult. This is largely because most of the impacts of gambling are social in nature, meaning they affect more than one individual and cannot be easily quantified in monetary terms. In addition, most of these impacts are not easily measurable and so are often overlooked in calculations of the costs and benefits of gambling.

To help address this issue, the authors propose a conceptual model for capturing the full range of gambling impacts. These impacts are categorized into classes: financial, labor and health/well-being. The financial impacts of gambling are primarily in the form of gambling revenues, which can also influence tourism and other industries. The labor impacts are mainly in the form of changes to work performance, absenteeism, and turnover. Finally, the health and well-being impacts of gambling are mainly in the form of changes to physical, psychological, and social functioning. These are the types of impacts that have tended to be ignored in previous gambling impact studies.