The Impact of Gambling


Gambling is an activity where a person stakes or risks something of value on the outcome of a contest of chance or an uncertain future contingent event not under his or her control or influence, in exchange for a promise or reward. Historically, gambling has been considered an entertaining and fun way to pass the time. However, this popular pastime has major negative impacts on individuals and society. A growing number of people develop a gambling disorder and this can have serious consequences for those affected, including family members and employers. Those who suffer from an undiagnosed gambling disorder can even attempt suicide before seeking treatment. The problem of gambling affects all types of people from different social and economic backgrounds. It can be found in small towns and big cities, and it affects males and females of every age. It is not just about money; it can be about the excitement of gambling, the dream of winning and even the escape from everyday problems or stresses.

Problem gamblers are often misdiagnosed as having an emotional or personality disorder, but the truth is that gambling can change the brain’s natural chemicals in ways that can make it more difficult to control oneself. This change in brain chemistry, along with genetic and psychological predispositions, can lead to addiction. Pathological gambling was once viewed as a compulsion, but now it is recognized as an addiction akin to substance abuse. The changes in understanding of this problem have been reflected and stimulated by the changing criteria for classifying gambling disorders, as seen in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Unlike other leisure activities, gambling has both costs and benefits. The costs are mainly monetary, but there are also non-monetary, invisible costs at the individual and interpersonal levels. These costs can include financial strains on family members, escalating debt, bankruptcy and homelessness. At the community/society level, the impact of gambling can have positive long-term effects when money generated by gambling is used for beneficial purposes.

The main impact of gambling is the negative psychological and social impact it has on the gamblers. This includes a loss of self-control, impaired thinking and motivation, increased debt, decreased social interactions, increased risk-taking behaviour and feelings of anxiety. In addition, gamblers are more sensitive to losses than gains of equal value. For example, losing PS10 generates a greater emotional reaction than finding PS10. This makes them more likely to invest their time and money in trying to win back the lost amount and become stuck in a vicious cycle of losses. These factors, combined with our Safeguarding Courses, can contribute to developing a gambling disorder. The key to stopping the cycle is early intervention. Many organisations offer help, assistance and counselling to individuals suffering from a gambling problem. These services can help them to take control of their gambling and, if necessary, seek professional assistance to overcome an addiction.