The Social Impact of Gambling

Whether through sports betting, casino games or scratchcards, gambling involves risking money or something of value in an attempt to predict the outcome of a game based on chance. Some people gamble for fun or to satisfy a desire for thrill, while others are addicted and suffer from significant consequences. The risks of gambling vary between individuals and can include financial losses, emotional stress, health problems, social isolation, family discord and legal issues.

Many government operated lotteries provide revenue to support essential public services such as healthcare, education and infrastructure development. This is a good way of using gambling profits for societal benefit. In addition, some gambling operators donate a percentage of their profits to philanthropic and community initiatives.

Gambling impacts can be categorized into three classes: financial, labor and health and well-being. These classes manifest on personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1). Financial impacts are changes in monetary situations; labor impacts refer to gamblers’ increased debt or financial strain and effects on their work performance and absenteeism; and health/well-being impacts pertain to a person’s physical, psychological and social well-being.

It is important to recognize that the risk of gambling addiction can be present regardless of the type or form of gambling. In addition, the nomenclature surrounding gambling has evolved over time and may differ depending on a researcher’s disciplinary background or world view. This can contribute to the ambiguity in the research of gambling’s impact. Some researchers apply a cost of illness perspective while others use economic cost-benefit analysis or consider intangible harms such as the loss of family connections, moral turpitude and mental illness.