Public Health and Gambling

Gambling is a behavior that involves risk-taking in exchange for a potential gain. It can be addictive, and the consequences can be devastating. People who engage in this activity often lose control of their money and end up with debts that can erode family incomes and savings. Some even suffer psychological problems, such as depression or anxiety. Despite the many negative impacts of gambling, some people support its legalization and argue that it can attract tourism and bring in tax revenue for local communities. Others oppose it, arguing that it fuels social ills and increases the number of compulsive gamblers.

Gamblers choose what they want to bet on – it could be a football team, or a scratchcard – and then make a bet based on the ‘odds’ set by the betting company. The odds are determined by probability and can vary greatly between different bets. This is comparable to how insurance companies calculate premiums using actuarial data.

A person’s personal and interpersonal level costs related to gambling can be hidden, but at the society/community level they are more visible and include monetary impacts, general costs/benefits, cost/benefits of problem gambling, and long term cost. Various social impact indicators have been developed to measure these costs, and it may be helpful for a public health approach to consider them alongside the more commonly used economic impact measures.