The Social Impact of Gambling


Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money, goods, or services) on a random event with the intention of winning money or another prize. Instances of strategy are discounted. This activity is also known as betting or speculating. People often gamble to relieve boredom, as a way to socialize with friends or family, as a stress reliever, or as an outlet for negative emotions such as sadness or depression. Moreover, gambling can be a source of motivation, giving individuals something to work towards and the satisfaction of accomplishment when they win.

Gamblers spend billions of dollars annually, much of which is derived from the tax revenues that casinos generate for governments. This revenue is a major factor in the economic stability of local communities. In addition, regulated gambling operations create jobs for casino hostesses, dealers, software developers and designers, pit bosses, and people working in catering, accounting, and security. This, in turn, increases the number of available employment opportunities for locals and improves their quality of life.

While the majority of people who gamble do so responsibly and enjoy the entertainment that comes with it, others become compulsive gamblers who run up huge debts or risk their families’ financial security. Some of these problem gamblers also suffer from mental illness, which can affect their ability to make sound decisions. The impact of gambling can be felt by family members, coworkers, and other acquaintances who witness the deterioration in a person’s behavior, social functioning, or relationships.

Studies have found that there are significant social costs of gambling. However, these effects are difficult to quantify. Research scientists, psychiatrists, other treatment care clinicians, and public policy makers tend to frame questions about gambling differently based on their disciplinary training, experience, and world views. Furthermore, the nomenclature for describing behavioral signs of gambling is inconsistent and often subjective.

If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling habits, talk to them and encourage them to seek professional help. There are many resources for finding support, such as local gambling treatment programs and peer-support groups like Gamers Anonymous, a program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also try strengthening your own support network by spending time with friends who do not gamble, joining a sports team or book club, or volunteering for a good cause. You can also practice relaxation techniques to help you deal with unpleasant feelings and reduce your need for unhealthy gambling activities. Lastly, you can set firm boundaries in your own finances and credit to ensure that you do not become an enabler for your loved one’s addiction. If necessary, you can even take over the household finances to keep them accountable for their gambling activities. This will make it more difficult for them to rationalize requests for “just this one last time.”