The Social Impact of Gambling

Gambling is a popular pastime in many countries and can be an enjoyable way to relax, socialise and even unwind. However, for some people it becomes an addiction that causes serious consequences for themselves, their families and the wider community.

Problem gambling can cause financial harms, including debt, loss of income and homelessness. These problems are more common in deprived areas and among lower socioeconomic groups [51–53]. Moreover, the risk of financial harms is increased when there are other risk factors, such as ill health, that may be related to both gambling and poverty [54–57].

There are many reasons why people gamble: for the thrill of winning money, as a form of escapism or for the social interaction they can have with friends at casinos and other gambling venues. In addition, it is a popular coping mechanism to relieve unpleasant emotions such as boredom, stress and anxiety. For example, studies show that the release of dopamine during gambling is similar to that produced when taking drugs of abuse.

Social impacts, defined as costs that aggregate societal real wealth and benefit no one, are often ignored when calculating gambling impact. This is partly due to the fact that they are difficult to quantify. However, an approach developed by Williams and others offers a way to measure these impacts at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels.

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