Gambling is an activity where people stake money, possessions or reputation on the outcome of a game of chance or skill. The aim is to win a prize (either a cash sum, goods or services) by risking something of value that may lose value if the gamble fails. Gambling can be done in a wide range of places, including casinos, racetracks and even on the internet. It is a popular pastime and many people enjoy it, however, it is important to understand how gambling affects society before you start to play.
A key point to consider is that despite some positive economic impacts from gambling, the negative social costs cannot be ignored. It has been found that problem gambling can be a significant social ill, leading to financial difficulties, debt and family problems. It has also been linked to thoughts of suicide and the impact of gambling on mental health needs to be taken seriously.
Research suggests that the most common motivation for people to gamble is the prospect of winning money. This can be a short-term or long-term goal, and may be influenced by the social context in which the gambling takes place. For example, a person may feel more motivated to gamble in a club or casino where they are socialising with friends, whereas someone else might be driven by the opportunity to win big on a football accumulator or other type of betting event.
It is often difficult to determine the social impact of gambling because most studies have only focused on the financial benefits, which are easily quantifiable. However, this approach is biased because it fails to address the societal harms associated with gambling and ignores other non-monetary impacts.
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission has reported that studies of the economic development of gambling have largely overlooked its social costs. It states that the social pathologies resulting from gambling disallow individuals to make productive decisions and force others to pay for their dysfunctional behaviour.
A large number of people who have been affected by gambling are in debt or have experienced a loss of income. These individuals can often benefit from help and advice from StepChange. This charity can offer free, confidential debt advice, including debt management and bankruptcy.
Some people are more at risk of harmful gambling than others, and it is vital to take control of your finances before you begin to gamble. It is also advisable to never gamble with money you need to pay bills or for essential living expenses and only use funds you can afford to lose. If you have already experienced a loss, the best way to recover is to speak to a debt advisor who can help you work out a plan for repayment. For more information, visit StepChange.