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The Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is the betting of something of value on a random event with an awareness of the risk of losing and the hope of gaining. Gambling is common, ranging from lottery tickets and street magic boxes purchased by people living on small incomes to sophisticated casino gambling practised by the wealthy for profit or as a pastime. Gambling can create negative impacts on gamblers and their significant others, and can have a substantial impact on society at large through tax revenues and social care costs.

Humans like to feel in control and, despite the uncertainty of gambling, gamblers often convince themselves that they can gain some degree of control by making specific choices, such as throwing the dice a certain way or sitting in a lucky place or wearing a ‘lucky’ item of clothing. This desire to feel in control combined with genetic predispositions for thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity can make it easy to become addicted to gambling.

It is a challenge to determine the true scale of gambling’s impacts, with studies tending to focus on monetary costs and benefits – which can be easily measured. In order to fully understand the true nature of gambling’s impacts, it is necessary to examine them at a conceptual level. These impacts can be grouped into three classes: personal, interpersonal and community/societal. These levels reflect the development, severity and scope of impacts – from non-problematic recreational gambling to problem gambling and its consequences.