The Social Impact of Gambling


Gambling is a form of entertainment wherein the gambler wagers something of value on a random event. While gambling can be a great deal of fun, it is also highly addictive and carries several negative social consequences. It can lead to financial problems and even homelessness.

In the past 10 years, there has been much controversy about gambling addiction. Nevertheless, researchers and health professionals agree that it is possible for a person to become addicted to gambling. Many mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria to determine problem gambling. Problem gambling has long-term effects, even if a person stops gambling. The American Psychiatric Association lists gambling disorder as one of the most common addictive behaviors.

There are three types of impacts related to gambling: the individual, the interpersonal, and the community or society level. Most studies have focused on the impacts of gambling on the individual, while a few have examined its positive and negative effects on the individual, the community, or both.

Gambling is an addictive and popular activity in many countries. Approximately one-third of adults engage in the activity at some point. Some consumers gamble to evade their problems, while others gamble in the pursuit of winning. For some, the thrill of winning can help keep them optimistic despite their tough life circumstances. Unlike other forms of entertainment, gambling is a risk-taking activity that requires betting against one’s own best interests.

Studies on gambling have examined the economic, social, and physical impacts of the activity. Although there are studies that report positive impacts of the activity, these are often not adequately characterized. Despite its widespread popularity, the literature on gambling does not include a comprehensive understanding of its social impact. This is largely because of the difficulty in defining the appropriate measure of the impact.

One way to determine the impact of gambling is to employ an economic cost-benefit analysis. This method is commonly used in alcohol and drug research. In this approach, the value of intangible harms is assessed in order to discover the benefits that gambling can provide to society. An arbitrary monetary amount cannot measure the magnitude of a social impact.

Another method for quantifying the positive and negative impacts of gambling is to apply the concept of consumer surplus. Consumer surplus is the difference between what people would pay for a product or service and what they actually pay for it. By calculating a consumer surplus, gambling revenues can be directed to beneficial causes.

Another way to understand the social impact of gambling is to assess the costs of problem gambling. Costs of problem gambling include both tangible and invisible individual and group costs. These costs include the costs of crime, the costs of problem gamblers, and the costs of incarceration.

Other gambling impacts include changes in financial situations and employment. Among other positive impacts of gambling are improvements in the lives of lower socioeconomic groups, seniors’ self-concepts, and the psychological benefits of playing the game.