Gambling and Its Impact on Society

Gambling involves wagering something of value on an uncertain event. It can be a simple as a lottery ticket, a scratch-off game, or a casino game like blackjack, poker, roulette, or horse racing. Regardless of the specific type of gambling activity, three elements are required: consideration, risk, and prize.

Many people who have a problem with gambling feel like they cannot stop gambling even when they lose money or their family or friends tell them to. They may hide their gambling activities or lie about how much they gamble to others. They may spend a lot of time playing video and mobile games that require micro-transactions and payments, or they may visit websites to play online slots and other games.

For some people, gambling can be a way to socialise with friends or colleagues; this is especially true when the media portrays gambling as fun, glamorous and fashionable. Gambling can also be a form of escape from boredom, financial problems, grief, depression or other life stresses.

Research on gambling can be difficult to conduct as it can be difficult to define and measure what is meant by “gambling”. It is important for researchers to consider both the direct costs of gambling and the indirect costs, which may be hidden from the gambler. The indirect costs can include the impact on other people, for example, a gambler’s debt or financial strain affects their families, and the impacts resulting from escalating gambling problems can affect the community at large (Fig. 1).