Gambling is an activity in which participants risk something of value, usually money, on an event that has a degree of uncertainty. There are many different kinds of gambling, from betting on a football team to win a match to buying a scratchcard. The first step in gambling is choosing what to bet on – this could be a specific football team or a horse in a race. The choice is matched to ‘odds’ set by the betting company, which determine how much money you can win if you make the right call.
People develop gambling problems for a variety of reasons. Low self-esteem and the desire to try to overcome a financial crisis are often factors. Other risk factors include a family history of gambling addiction, depression and impulsivity.
Problematic gambling can affect the person’s work, their relationships and their home life. People can even lose their jobs, become homeless or commit crimes as a result of their gambling. In addition, excessive gambling can lead to debt and deplete savings.
In order to understand the extent of these impacts, we need a common methodology for analysing them. This article outlines a model that can be used to structure them into negative and positive impacts, and also costs and benefits. These impacts occur at the personal, interpersonal and society/community levels. The model is based on the principle that, “what you get depends upon what you stand to gain.” This is also known as Miles’ law. Individuals and groups support or oppose gambling in line with their immediate self-interest. For example, elected government leaders promote it to solidify the economic base of a town, bureaucrats in agencies promise gaming revenue to cover expenses and owners of large casinos support gambling when it will boost their businesses.