The Hidden Costs and Benefits of Gambling


Gambling is risking something of value on an activity that relies heavily on chance in the hope of realizing a profit. It has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history, often being incorporated into local customs and rites of passage.

A large portion of the costs and benefits associated with gambling are invisible to the gambler. These include: the psychological effects of losing, such as feelings of guilt and anxiety; the costs incurred by family members when a gambler steals to pay for gambling activities or lies about them; the cost to society of increased crime committed in order to finance gambling (forgery, theft, embezzlement); and other hidden costs involving the illegal activities of gamblers to obtain money or credit. Some of these impacts are measurable at the individual, interpersonal, and community/society level, while others may take on long-term forms that create a change in life course for an individual or even pass between generations.

There are a variety of strategies to help a person overcome an addiction to gambling. One of the most important is to build up a support network. This can be done by finding new ways to spend time with friends, enrolling in a class or book club, getting involved in a sporting event or church group, and/or reaching out to colleagues at work. Another option is to join a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step program used by Alcoholics Anonymous.