The Effects of Gambling


Gambling is risking something of value on a random event, such as betting on a football match or scratchcard, with the aim of winning something else of value. It usually involves a bet against the house and requires three elements: consideration, risk, and a prize. It can also include social activities that don’t involve money such as playing games of chance with friends.

Problem gambling can occur when a person becomes obsessed with it and starts to gamble excessively, often with little regard for the consequences of their actions. This can affect people from all walks of life and may lead to financial disaster, strain family relationships, or cause them to do things they would never normally do such as stealing to fund their addiction.

Those with gambling problems can find it difficult to admit that they have a problem and may hide their activity from those close to them. However, it is important to recognise that this behaviour is damaging and seek help if necessary.

There are a number of different treatment options available for those with gambling problems. Some are residential, while others are outpatient-based, but all offer the same basic principles – helping the individual identify their problems and learn coping skills. Some of these treatments include family therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and 12-step programs such as Gam-Anon.

In addition to these treatment options, there are a number of self-help groups that can help people deal with gambling issues, including Gamblers Anonymous and the National Council on Problem Gambling. These groups are run by former gamblers who can offer support and advice on overcoming the problem.

While there are many positive aspects to gambling, the long-term effects can be devastating. Those who suffer from gambling problems can experience financial hardship, depression and anxiety, and even alcoholism or drug addiction. This is particularly true for those who have a family history of gambling addiction or other forms of mental illness.

There are some positive impacts at the community/society level as well, but these have received less emphasis in studies. This is partly due to the tendency of political leaders and bureaucrats to support gambling when it benefits them, and oppose it when it does not. This is a reflection of Miles’ law, which states that ‘he who stands to gain most supports the thing most’. This could be a reason why some studies focus on economic costs and benefits rather than on other types of impacts. However, there is a growing interest in measuring the negative impacts using health-related quality of life weights (HRQL weights), which measure the per-person burden on a gambler’s social network and the broader population. This method is a useful tool to investigate the complexities of gambling impacts. A new approach is needed to incorporate these intangible harms into gambling impact research.