Public Health Impacts of Gambling

Gambling occurs when a person stakes something of value on the outcome of a future contingent event not under his control or influence. This can include activities such as betting on football matches, horse races and scratchcards. People who gamble often experience feelings of euphoria, excitement and a desire to keep playing to win more money. They may also feel regret when they lose. Despite these positive feelings, gambling can have negative impacts on the individual, their significant others and society.

The word ‘gambling’ is derived from the Latin term gambiere, which means to risk or wager. Gambling can take place in casinos, sports events, on television and even on the internet. It can be social, fun and exciting but it is important to understand the risks involved in gambling to avoid becoming addicted.

People with an addiction to gambling have a predisposition to the condition based on a combination of factors. These include: boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, poor understanding of random events, use of escape coping and stressful life experiences. These factors lead to an unsustainable cycle of expectancy of an early big win compounded by the illusion of control, all while escaping from their problems.

While there are many ways to measure the impact of gambling, a public health approach offers a common method of analysis for assessing costs and benefits. Costs and benefits can be categorized into three classes: financial, labor and health and well-being. These classes manifest on personal, interpersonal and societal levels.