The Hidden Costs of Gambling

Gambling involves placing something of value (usually money) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the hope of winning a prize. This includes activities such as betting on sports events, games of skill like blackjack and poker, buying lottery tickets and scratchcards, gambling at casinos, racing and animal tracks, keno and bingo, buying tickets for concerts, and even playing online casino games. Some governments regulate the gambling industry and tax its revenue to help fund public services such as healthcare and education. Other governments outlaw gambling entirely.

The earliest known records of gambling date back to the ancient world and include games of dice, sticks and stones. Modern gambling began with the development of lottery in Europe in the 16th century and has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment. It is estimated that there are about 200 million people worldwide who gamble in some way.

Some of the most significant benefits of gambling are entertainment, socialization and relaxation. Whether playing at a regulated casino, online or in person, gambling allows individuals to challenge their brains as they try to devise strategies and win. This type of mental activity is thought to keep the brain healthy and may reduce dementia risks.

While gambling provides many entertainment benefits, it also has some costs that are incurred by both gamblers and non-gamblers. These are often hidden or underestimated. These impacts occur at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels. The personal level refers to effects on the gambler, such as financial issues or feelings of denial or guilt. Interpersonal and community/societal levels encompass effects on those who are close to the gambler, such as family members. Problem gambling can affect the entire family and lead to financial strain.

Problem gambling has been linked to higher suicide rates. If you or someone you know is thinking of harming themselves, contact 999 or go to A&E immediately. It is also worth seeking help if you are struggling with debt, as gambling can contribute to this. Speak to a StepChange Debt Advisor for free, confidential advice.

Gambling is also an important source of income for local communities. In a regulated gambling market, the government levies taxes on gambling and this revenue is used for public services, such as healthcare, education and infrastructure. The industry is also a major employer and provides jobs for casino hosts, hostesses, dealers, software developers and designers, pit bosses, accountants, security and catering staff.

Longitudinal studies of gambling are becoming more common but are still relatively rare because of the difficulties involved in achieving longterm follow-ups of participants, maintaining a research team over time, and controlling for the confounding factors of age and period effects. Nonetheless, longitudinal studies are important because they can identify a cause and effect relationship over time.

If you are a loved one of a person who has a problem with gambling, it is important to set boundaries in managing money. You can also seek therapy to address unhealthy emotions and thoughts. There are a number of different types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioural therapy.