The Risks and Costs of Gambling

The act of wagering something of value on a random event in the hope of winning something else of value, where instances of strategy are discounted. Gambling includes all activities involving a bet, from street magic boxes and lottery tickets to casino games and the purchase of sports teams’ jerseys with money made up of real currency. Those who gamble take the chance that they will win, but most people understand that the odds are against them.

The risks and costs of gambling can be structuralised using a model that separates them into three classes: financial, labor and health and well-being. These classes manifest at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1).

Gambling’s impacts are complex, but the negative effects usually come to mind when discussing this activity, even among those who are not afflicted with gambling disorders. These include high rates of addiction, escalating debt and a lack of financial literacy. The disproportionate vulnerability of certain groups, such as those living in poverty or young people, also cannot be overlooked.

Despite these issues, many people continue to engage in gambling activities. For some, it’s a way to spend time with friends, to escape from reality or to avoid dealing with difficult emotions. For others, it’s a way to feel more confident or less anxious. The media often reinforces these messages by portraying gambling as fun, sexy and glamorous. These factors, along with other influencing factors, may contribute to a person’s risk for problem gambling.