The Social Impacts of Gambling


Gambling is a form of entertainment where people place bets on events with a perceived value. It is a popular leisure activity in many countries around the world. It can take many forms and includes casino gambling, lottery, instant scratch cards, sports betting and speculation (betting on business, insurance and stocks). Gambling has been a part of human society for as long as records have existed. It was practiced among the Bushmen of South Africa, Australian Aborigines and American Indians, and dice games were found in Stone Age tombs. There is even evidence of gambling in ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek cultures.

Problem gambling can be caused by a number of factors. These include a person’s susceptibility to addiction, the size of an early win, a false sense of control, boredom, impulsivity and an escape from stress. It can also be triggered by a change in the brain’s reward pathway, which can affect people differently. Problematic gamblers often seek out more stimulation from their behavior to feel a rewarding experience.

Although there are some positive impacts of gambling, the vast majority of studies concentrate on negative ones. However, these studies do not always consider how gambling may affect non-gamblers in harms’ reach and society as a whole. This methodological deficiency has contributed to the biased picture of gambling impacts that is presented in current literature.

A new approach to gambling impact assessment is necessary to address this issue. By adopting a public health methodology, social impacts could be assessed alongside economic and other forms of harm. This would also allow a comparison of different gambling policies and thereby help decision makers to identify the most beneficial options for society.

Using the public health approach, it is possible to calculate social impacts using the concept of health-related quality of life weights (HRQL). This would allow the identification of hidden costs that are not immediately apparent and which occur at an individual level. For example, the effects of debt and gambling on a family’s financial situation are not immediately visible but may lead to serious consequences. It is important to identify these impacts so that they can be taken into account when examining the impact of gambling.

Most studies of gambling have focused on the monetary aspects of the activity, which are relatively easy to quantify. However, social impacts have been ignored due to the difficulty of measuring them. These include invisible personal and interpersonal costs, which are non-monetary in nature, and external impacts that aggregate societal real wealth and are not easily quantified. It is also important to take into consideration that these impacts can have a long-term effect on gamblers and their significant others.