Gambling is an activity that involves placing something of value on a random event with the hope of winning. It is a common recreational activity, but it can also be addictive and lead to serious problems. Gambling is illegal in many countries, but it can be legalized and regulated in some places.
In the past, the psychiatric community generally viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction—a behavior primarily motivated by a need to relieve anxiety rather than a craving for intense pleasure. However, in the 1980s while updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the APA decided to categorize pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder—a fuzzy label for a group of somewhat related illnesses that also included kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair pulling).
While some people gamble only occasionally or for small amounts, others become compulsive gamblers and spend large amounts of money they can’t afford to lose. In some cases, this can even affect their families. It is estimated that anywhere from 1 to 5 percent of adults have gambling disorders and are considered problem gamblers. These gamblers can ruin their lives by running up huge debts and spending their personal savings. They can also damage their significant other’s health and well-being, and are more likely to be victims or perpetrators of interpersonal violence.
Despite the negative impact on individuals, some studies have claimed that gambling can be beneficial for society. For example, they argue that it can attract tourism and generate tax revenue. They also point out that gambling creates jobs in the industry, such as bookmakers, racehorse trainers and breeders, jockeys, and racing stewards. However, opponents of gambling argue that these benefits are negated by the harm caused by problem gamblers.
Gambling impacts can be structured using a model that divides them into positive and negative effects—costs and benefits. These costs and benefits are categorized into three classes: financial, labor and health, and well-being. They manifest on personal, interpersonal, and societal/community levels.
The financial impacts of gambling include changes in income and expenditures, revenues, and economic growth. The labor and health impacts are the negative effects that gambling has on workers, including reduced productivity, absenteeism, poor performance, and job losses. Well-being impacts are the positive changes that gambling has on a person’s health and quality of life, such as an increased sense of enjoyment.
Most gambling research has focused on measuring the economic costs and benefits of gambling, which are easily quantifiable. However, this approach fails to consider the social impacts of gambling. This type of research is necessary to determine whether the benefits of gambling outweigh its social costs. This research can be conducted from a variety of perspectives, such as a cost-benefit analysis or a public health perspective. This approach can also be used to discover social costs that are not easily measured or monetized, such as a decrease in a gambler’s health-related quality of life. This information can help policymakers to make better decisions regarding the future of gambling.