Public Health Impacts of Gambling

Whether you’re in a twinkly casino or betting on the outcome of a football match, gambling is an activity that involves risk and prize. It is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent to win something else of value, where instances of strategy are discounted. It can range from the simple purchase of lottery tickets by people with little income to the sophisticated casino gambling of those with considerable wealth, either for pleasure or for a profit (if they’re skilful). Gambling may have positive and negative impacts on individuals and society as a whole. However, these are often overlooked. Studies tend to focus only on economic costs and benefits, which are relatively easy to quantify. This approach presents a biased view of the issue and underestimates the full impact of gambling.

In contrast, a public health perspective considers all types of impacts – financial, labor and health and well-being, as well as social. These impact classes manifest at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1). The personal impact refers to effects that affect the gambler directly and is usually quantified in terms of loss or gain. Interpersonal impacts influence those close to the gambler – family, friends and colleagues – but are not necessarily quantified. The community/societal impact relates to those who are not the gamblers, but who are affected by their behaviour. These are often unquantified, and include the effects of increased debt or other financial problems that can impose significant strains on those around them.

While there are a variety of reasons why people gamble, the most common is for financial or recreational purposes. For example, many people enjoy placing bets with friends on a variety of sports events and games of chance, purely for the enjoyment and excitement they bring. Others gamble for the thrill of winning and the potential to change their lives for the better.

Regardless of why people gamble, they should always make sure they’re aware of the risks and set boundaries for themselves. For example, they should avoid high-risk situations such as using credit cards, taking out loans or carrying large sums of cash with them. They should also stick to a budget and only play with money they can afford to lose. They should not drink alcohol while gambling or use gambling as a way to escape from emotions, and they should never tip dealers in cash; tip them in chips only. By following these tips, they can help reduce their chances of developing a gambling problem. This is especially important because gambling can activate the brain’s reward system in the same way that other drugs do. As such, some people are more susceptible to addiction than others. This is particularly true of young people and men. For this reason, it’s important to raise awareness about gambling disorders among these groups. The good news is that treatment is available and it can be life-changing for those who struggle with gambling addiction.