The Social and Community Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is a form of entertainment that involves wagering something of value on an event with the hope of winning something else of value. Whether it’s playing a game of chance, putting a bet on a sporting event or taking a spin at the slot machines, gambling has both positive and negative effects on people and communities. While studies have focused primarily on the economic impacts of gambling, social impacts are also significant and worthy of attention.

Problematic gambling changes the way your brain responds to pleasure, and can have devastating consequences for your life. In addition to the financial losses, people with problem gambling often have relationships that suffer, work and school performance declines and feelings of sadness, guilt or anxiety. They may even attempt suicide to escape from the misery. It is important to understand what causes a person to gamble, and to recognize the signs that indicate a problem.

Identifying and addressing the root causes of gambling addiction is essential to getting help and stopping the cycle of escapism and relapse. The causes of gambling addiction are complex, and include a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Genetic predisposition, for example, can contribute to impulsivity and risk-taking behaviour. Certain medications can also cause or exacerbate gambling problems.

While many people enjoy gambling in moderation, some struggle with addictive behaviors that affect their daily lives and lead to destructive patterns of behaviour. In some cases, a gambling addiction leads to substance use disorder (SUD). SUD is characterized by compulsive, uncontrollable behaviors and impulse control issues that affect how you think, feel and behave.

The social and community impact of gambling have been largely overlooked in the past, with most research focused on its economic impact. This is partly because it’s more difficult to quantify and compare monetary benefits and costs, and because it’s challenging to measure a “quality of life” or sense of belonging that might be associated with gambling activities.

It’s important to keep in mind that, while casinos and other gambling establishments do stimulate local economies through job creation and increased consumer spending, the negative effects of gambling on individuals and families are widespread. Some of these negative impacts include:

There are steps that you can take to reduce your gambling habits and limit the damage they cause. Start by setting limits for yourself, such as only betting money you can afford to lose. Avoid gambling on credit cards and other lines of credit, and remember that free cocktails aren’t actually a gift from the casino—it’s a lure to spend more money! Try to learn healthier ways of relieving unpleasant emotions or boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing stress management techniques. In addition, try to find healthy outlets for your stress, such as volunteering or finding a new hobby. Developing a strong support system can also be helpful when you’re trying to overcome a gambling habit. If you are concerned about a friend or family member’s gambling, seek professional advice.