The Effects of Gambling on Society

Gambling involves risking something of value on an activity primarily based on chance in the hopes of realizing a profit. It has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history and is a part of many local customs and rites of passage. It can have a positive social impact when it is done responsibly and does not become addictive. However, a small percentage of people gamble recklessly and end up with problems that impair their ability to support themselves and their families.

The growth of gambling has been accelerated by numerous factors. The Depression of the 1930s heightened public anxiety about money and led to increased emphasis on business profits. In the 1970s, economic turmoil combined with increasing public discontent about government expenditures fueled demand for tax relief and new sources of revenue to pay for governmental programs. A growing population of aging baby boomers was also adding to the demand for entertainment and leisure activities.

Modern technology has made it possible to create games that offer a greater variety of betting opportunities than ever before. Newer games, such as video poker and blackjack, involve a high degree of skill and strategy. These games are often characterized by higher average winnings than traditional casino table games. They are played by a large number of people, and their popularity has grown as a result.

Intangible effects of gambling are difficult to measure or quantify in dollar terms, and they are often omitted from consideration by gambling-related economic impact studies. As with other intangible social costs and benefits, however, considerable progress is being made in identifying them and measuring their magnitude.

There are a variety of ways to prevent gambling addiction, including therapy and treatment. A person can also limit their access to money by getting rid of credit cards, putting someone else in charge of their finances, closing online betting accounts, or limiting the amount of cash they carry with them. In addition, people can also avoid triggering their gambling urges by occupying themselves with other activities that require mental effort and focus.

A number of studies have attempted to evaluate the effects of gambling on society. Some, known as gross impact studies, concentrate on one aspect of the problem and do not pretend to provide a balanced perspective. These studies often rely on annual cost estimates per pathological gambler and prevalence rates computed by earlier work, and they are generally unable to distinguish between direct and indirect effects.

Despite the fact that gambling has been around for thousands of years, there is no simple answer to the question of whether it causes negative or positive economic effects. The answer to this question depends on a combination of factors, including the size of the bets placed and how much of the total gambling revenue is lost to addiction. A more detailed discussion of these factors can be found in Benefit-Cost Analysis: The Basics, by Robert H. Kaplan. This book is available from MIT Press.

Back to Top