Gambling and Public Health
Gambling involves wagering something of value (such as money, goods or services) on a random event with the intent to win. It is a worldwide, widespread activity with legal and illegal forms. People also gamble with objects that have value but are not money, such as marbles and collectible game pieces like Pogs or Magic: The Gathering. In addition, gambling is an important economic activity, generating billions of dollars in revenue each year and providing jobs and taxes for governments.
A small minority of gamblers become wealthy, but most end up penniless, broke or in prison. Moreover, they can also suffer from other social, emotional and physical problems. Moreover, their significant others are often negatively affected and attempts to stop the behavior are nearly always futile. Gambling can also impact work by interfering with family, social and community activities.
Research on the positive and negative effects of gambling is sparse and most studies focus on monetary costs/benefits, which are relatively easy to quantify. However, the social impacts of gambling are important and have received very little attention. A public health approach can fill gaps in knowledge and identify externalities that may not be apparent at the individual level. These include the costs/benefits to society/community, cost/benefits to gamblers’ families and significant others, and long-term costs.
There are many ways that people can relieve unpleasant emotions, unwind or socialize without gambling. For example, they could exercise, spend time with friends who don’t gamble or practice relaxation techniques. The most important thing is for people who have a problem with gambling to realize that they have a problem and seek help.