The Benefits and Costs of Gambling



Gambling is a risky activity where someone wagers something of value on an event that is uncertain, usually with the aim of winning something else of value. It can take many forms, including: card games, lotteries, baccarat, roulette and video-draw poker machines. It can also include betting on horse races, football accumulators and other sporting events, political elections, business ventures and speculating on the stock market.

Gambling can be socially and economically beneficial or harmful depending on its impact and the degree of addiction. Problem gambling affects a significant number of people, often leading to financial ruin and loss of family or career opportunities. A growing body of evidence supports the concept that gambling is a genuine addiction, similar to other addictive substances or behaviors such as drugs and alcohol.

Those who promote gambling argue that it attracts tourism, resulting in new jobs, increased income, economic growth and tax revenues. Others point out that gambling encourages dishonesty, with cheating being possible in nearly all casino games. In addition, the majority of modern gambling laws focus more on efforts to derive tax revenue than on controlling cheating.

The benefits and costs of gambling manifest at the personal, interpersonal and society/community levels (Fig. 1). The personal level refers to the gambler himself/herself and includes effects that can be psychological and ego-based, such as the illusion of control over a random outcome. Interpersonal and society/community levels, on the other hand, are long-term impacts that can have serious consequences for the individual gambler and for the community at large.