Gambling Impacts From a Public Health Perspective

Gambling is an activity that involves placing a bet on something with an uncertain outcome. This could be a football match, or buying a scratchcard. The amount of money a person can win depends on how much they bet and how lucky they are. Some people can be addicted to gambling and need help with their problem.

While some people gamble for the excitement and the chance of winning, others do it to relieve stress and to socialize with friends. Some even find a sense of accomplishment in mastering casino games such as poker and blackjack. But whatever the motive, all gambling should be done within one’s means and not put the family’s financial health at risk.

The negative impacts of gambling can be seen on the personal, interpersonal and societal/community levels. These can include costs and benefits, such as increased tax revenue and tourism, job losses or gains, and changes in the value of property. In the past, studies have tended to focus on costs associated with problem gambling, including loss of income and increased demands on public services. However, the development of a new model that incorporates both cost-benefit analysis and an understanding of mental illness (including gambling disorder) provides the opportunity to discover positive impacts of gambling as well as its harmful effects.

Unlike alcohol and drug research, which typically use a health-related quality of life (HRQOL) framework, gambling studies have largely used a cost-benefit analysis approach. While this is a good framework for examining the impacts of gambling, it is not able to capture some of the invisible harms of gambling that cannot be measured in dollar terms, such as emotional distress and family discord. Furthermore, the monetary valuation of HRQOL weights can also lead to a distortion in the evaluation of gambling impacts that may be underestimated.

A societal level analysis is a more appropriate framework for evaluating gambling impacts because it is more inclusive of the needs of gamblers and their significant others. Moreover, it can provide an opportunity to discover some of the positive economic impacts that are often overlooked.

A growing body of evidence has shown that problem gambling has significant adverse consequences for individuals and societies. Despite this, research into gambling impacts is limited. A new model based on an understanding of the impact of gambling from a public health perspective can fill gaps in knowledge and improve the usefulness of research into gambling policies. The model uses a common framework to locate and compare existing empirical work on gambling. It identifies areas that require further study, including the need to explore benefits and costs at a higher level of detail than is currently available. This will enable a more balanced and accurate view of the impacts of gambling. It will also highlight the need to include intangible benefits that are not measurable in dollars. This includes the emotional distress caused by gambling and its impact on the quality of life of gamblers and their significant others.