The Effects of Gambling on Society


Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event with the aim of winning something else of value. It can be done with money, or other materials like marbles or collectible game pieces such as pogs and Magic: The Gathering. Unlike games of skill, where winning is more likely for players who practise, gambling has a low probability of success and can become addictive because it triggers a dopamine response. This does not mean that people who engage in problem gambling are stupid or unable to control their behaviour, but it can be complicated by factors including boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, a lack of understanding about random events and the use of escape coping.

Problem gamblers have a high risk of becoming dependent on gambling and experience long term harms ranging from financial (debt, bankruptcy) to psychological distress (e.g. depression). These effects can occur at the personal, interpersonal and community/society level.

Impacts on society are usually considered in terms of money that is spent on gambling and used to fund regulation, research, treatment and prevention services. However, it is important to note that this spending can also have positive impacts on society in the form of tax revenue and economic activity. This can be directed towards beneficial purposes such as education or social welfare. Nevertheless, these benefits can be offset by negative impacts such as crime (e.g. theft) and the negative effects on employment of those with gambling problems.