Gambling and Its Impacts on Individuals and Communities

Gambling is the wagering of money and/or material goods on an event with an uncertain outcome. It involves three elements: consideration, chance and prize. It can be done in casinos, racetracks, at sporting events and online. Some people gamble for fun, while others do it to win big prizes. It is also considered an addictive pastime, with many people struggling to quit.

Some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsivity. They may have an underactive brain reward system, which makes it harder to control impulses or weigh risks. Moreover, the environment in which a person is exposed to gambling can influence how they develop harmful gambling habits. The culture of a particular community can also shape their thoughts and values, which may affect their ability to recognize and seek help for problem gambling.

Gambling can be socially beneficial for individuals who enjoy interacting and relaxing with friends. Games like blackjack and poker require more than one player, so individuals get to socialize while playing. Additionally, gambling has the potential to improve people’s critical thinking skills and increase their knowledge of strategy.

Despite the positive aspects of gambling, it has been found to have negative impacts on individuals and communities. These impacts can be observed at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1). Personal levels include effects that are experienced by the individual gambler, such as their increased debt and financial strain. Interpersonal and community/society levels include impacts that concern other people, such as their spouses, children and employers.