The Social Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is a form of risky behavior in which people wager money or other items of value on the outcome of a game or event based on chance. It can take many forms, including scratchcards, slot machines, games of chance and sports betting. It is an important commercial activity, with over two million people in the U.S. suffering from problem gambling and tens of millions more engaged in recreational gambling. In addition to its economic impacts, gambling also has significant social costs and benefits. These can be structural or behavioural and can occur at the individual, family, and community levels.

While a game of chance may not be as rigged as a football match, the gambling industry is highly sophisticated in its marketing and advertising techniques. This is why it is so difficult for those who are struggling with gambling to stop. There are, however, effective treatments for gambling addiction and recovery is possible. Moreover, it is essential for anyone who knows someone with gambling addiction to educate themselves on the treatment options available.

Like other consumer products, the gambling industry advertises its products through television and other media platforms, but it also uses a number of marketing techniques unique to gambling. These include leveraging social media and the ‘spotlight’ effect of the casino floor to draw the attention of punters and influencing their perceptions by placing subtle cues in the gambling environment that indicate whether a player has a good or bad chance of winning, such as a ‘two-out-of-three cherries’ on a slot machine.

In addition to this, the gambling industry employs a range of psychological techniques to manipulate the gambler’s decision-making process. For example, gambling venues are designed to trigger certain emotions in the customer, such as elation and anticipation, and if these emotional triggers are successful then the punter will be more likely to make a decision to continue gambling.

Impacts of gambling can be categorized into positive and negative; these can then be structured using a conceptual model. The model divides the impacts into three classes: financial, labor and health/well-being. Financial impacts include changes in income and spending, effects on the economy, and change in asset or property values. Labor impacts can include absenteeism, reduced performance, inability to work and job losses or gains. Health and well-being impacts include physical, psychological, and social/emotional wellbeing.

Gambling has been shown to have external costs and benefits at the personal, interpersonal and community/society level. The personal and interpersonal level impacts are mainly non-monetary, and include invisible, individual effects such as debt and financial strain and the impact of escalating gambling problems that can lead to bankruptcy and homelessness. At the community/society level, the impact of gambling can include economic gains, such as increased revenue that can be used for beneficial purposes, and long-term costs and benefits that can create a change in an individual’s life course or pass on between generations. These are often not captured in traditional cost-benefit analyses.