The Social Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is the act of placing something of value (money, goods or services) on an event that has a random outcome, in the hope of winning a prize. It can also refer to activities that involve skill, such as playing card games or horse races, whose outcomes are partially determined by the gambler’s knowledge of strategies or other factors.

Many people have a healthy relationship with gambling and do not suffer any adverse effects, but for others it is an addictive activity that can have serious consequences for themselves and their families. Problem gambling can cause psychological, social and financial harm and should be treated as any other addiction.

For many people, gambling is a form of entertainment that provides them with an enjoyable pastime, but it can also be used as a method to kill boredom, pass time or escape from reality. For those who are addicted, it can hijack the brain’s reward pathway and overstimulate the dopamine receptors in a similar way to alcohol or drugs. This can cause them to lose control over their behaviour and increase the amount of money they spend in order to experience a positive reward.

Gambling can be a significant economic contributor, bringing in large amounts of revenue and creating employment opportunities. However, it can also have negative economic impacts such as increased crime and lower productivity in some sectors of the economy. Gambling can also have other social impacts such as increasing family problems, loss of personal wealth and a decrease in general health and well-being.

Traditionally, the majority of studies examining gambling have focused on the negative economic costs and benefits. This approach overlooks the other social aspects of gambling, such as its impact on a gambler’s relationships with their family and friends. Moreover, it tends to focus on only the negative impacts of pathological gambling and ignores the fact that harmful behaviour can also occur among non-problematic gamblers.

Social impacts can be observed at the individual, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1). Individual impacts induce effects on a personal level and affect the gamblers themselves, while interpersonal and community/societal levels influence those who are not the gamblers. In addition, some types of impacts can be observable at different temporal intervals. Nevertheless, there is still a lack of agreement about the best methodology for assessing gambling impacts, especially those that are nonmonetary in nature. The article developed here offers a conceptual model to help in building common methodology for assessing gambling impacts. This is based on the definition of a social cost/benefit provided by Walker and Williams [32]. This framework can be applied to any type of gambling. This approach can be compared to other methodologies that aim to assess the economic, labour and health and wellbeing impacts of gambling on society. The main difference is that a social benefit/cost should aggregate societal real wealth and should be social, rather than personal. This is an important point for identifying the true impact of gambling on society.

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