The Social Impact of Gambling

Gambling is an activity where a person places something of value on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. People gamble for many reasons; some to be social with their friends and others to relieve boredom, stress or anxiety. The media portrays gambling as fun, sexy and glamorous and for some it is a way to escape from the real world and forget about their problems for a while. It can also be a good way to make money if it is done responsibly.

For some people, problem gambling becomes a compulsion like substance addiction. It is recognised as a mental health disorder and is now included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Pathological gambling is caused by chemical changes in the brain and genetic or psychological predisposition. This can be triggered by stress, depression or loss of a loved one.

Problem gambling has numerous negative impacts on the gambler and their significant others, such as financial, labour and family and health-related quality of life harms. These adverse effects can have long-term consequences that can change a person’s life course and even pass between generations. [40] Unfortunately, most studies focus on only examining the costs and not the positive impacts of gambling.

In a public health approach, gambling has both costs and benefits, including to the community/society and to individual gamblers and their significant others. However, research in this area has been limited and has often neglected the concept of ‘social impact’, which is defined as costs or benefits that aggregate societal real wealth.