Gambling and Its Impact on Society

Gambling involves placing a wager on an event that is entirely uncertain. Whether it be betting on a football team to win a game, or purchasing a scratchcard to find out if you’re a winner, the choice of what to place a bet on is matched to ‘odds’ that determine how much money could be won. These odds are calculated by the gambling company and based on the outcome of past events – they do not guarantee a win.

The hope of winning can increase the likelihood that people will continue to gamble despite losses. This is because the brain releases dopamine, a feel good neurotransmitter that helps to motivate people to keep trying to win. This can be useful in situations such as training to learn a new skill, but problematic gambling changes the reward pathway and becomes purely about profit or escape.

Studies have examined impacts at the individual, interpersonal and community/society levels. However, the methodological challenges of examining these impacts in a rigorous and objective manner remain. One approach is to use health-related quality of life weights (known as disability weights) to measure intangible social costs resulting from gambling.

The first step to overcoming problem gambling is to recognise that there is an issue. Reach out to your support network and consider joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is a 12-step recovery program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. Set limits around your gambling and make sure you only bet with money you can afford to lose. Avoid chasing your losses; the more you try to get back what you’ve lost, the more likely you are to lose even more. Balance your gambling with other activities, such as work, hobbies or friends and family.