The Positive and Negative Effects of Gambling


Gambling involves risking something of value on an activity based mostly on chance in the hope of realizing a profit. It is an ancient activity that has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history and is often incorporated into local customs and rites of passage. Gambling is also an important part of many economies, providing income to workers and tax revenues to governments. However, gambling has negative effects on individuals, families, and communities as well.

Gamblers gamble for a variety of reasons. Some gamble for fun, while others do it to become rich or to meet financial obligations. Regardless of the reason, most people gamble for enjoyment and a sense of achievement. However, some people become addicted to gambling and experience problems. In such cases, it is necessary to seek professional help for addiction. There are many ways to help someone overcome a gambling addiction, including inpatient and residential treatment programs, self-help books, and support groups.

While most of the media emphasizes the adverse effects of gambling, there are positive aspects of the activity as well. For example, it provides a form of socializing with friends and family in a private setting. Other benefits of gambling include skill development and a source of income. In addition, it may have a positive effect on a community when it is used to draw tourists and business to an area.

Some studies attempt to estimate the net economic benefits of gambling by using a benefit-cost analysis. These types of studies have their shortcomings, however. The analysis must take into account real costs versus economic transfers, tangible and intangible benefits and costs, present and future values, and gains and losses. In addition, it is essential to distinguish between the direct and indirect effects of gambling on a community.

Indirect benefits of gambling are those that result from the construction and operation of casinos or other gambling venues, such as tourism, restaurant and hotel business, offtrack betting, and sports betting. These indirect benefits may be difficult to measure and quantify, but some progress has been made toward making them more tangible. These benefits must be weighed against the costs of gambling, such as crime and social services and lost productivity.

Another aspect of gambling that is not usually measured or quantified are the intangible benefits of the activity, such as improved mental health and personal skills. These benefits can be difficult to identify, but they are important to consider in a comprehensive benefit-cost analysis.

While the social, health, and environmental impacts of gambling are well documented, little research has been done to determine its net economic impact. Most studies of the economic impact of gambling rely on published news accounts, bankruptcy court opinions, and anecdotal information from bankruptcy attorneys. These accounts are region-specific, anecdotal, and poorly documented. One such study (Ison, 1995a) estimated that 20 percent of bankruptcies are gambling-related. These figures are exclusive of delinquent credit card payments, car loans, mortgages, and property taxes.