Gambling involves placing a wager on an event with an element of chance and the potential to win a prize. The events on which a gambler bets may include lotteries, races, animal tracks, casino games (including blackjack, poker, and slot machines), bingo, and scratch tickets. Gambling can also involve betting on sports events, computer games, and other virtual activities. Regardless of the event on which a gambler bets, gambling has a number of positive and negative effects.
Gambling can have long-term effects, both on the gambler and on the society/community. At the individual level, pathological gambling (PG) can have devastating consequences that persist well beyond a period of time and can alter the life course of an affected person. The majority of PGs start gambling as adolescents or young adults and develop their PG problem several years later. PG is more prevalent among males than females and affects a wider range of age groups than does non-pathological gambling. Males tend to develop a PG problem with more strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling, such as casino games or poker, while women seem more likely to experience problems with nonstrategic and less interpersonally interactive types of gambling, such as lotteries or slot machines.
At the community/society level, a gambling epidemic has been linked with higher crime rates. Gambling revenues can be diverted from community needs and may be used to pay for illegal or questionable activities. This diversion of resources may have long-term social costs that are difficult to quantify, but which can be substantial.
Although gambling is often associated with risky behaviors and can have harmful outcomes, some people enjoy it as a form of entertainment. In fact, studies have shown that gambling can make people happier than those who do not gamble. Whether it is because of the adrenaline and endorphins released during winning bets or because of the sense of accomplishment, researchers have found that people who gamble are typically more content than those who do not. However, it is important to remember that it is possible to become addicted to gambling and if you think that you might have a problem it is important to seek help. You can speak to a counsellor online or on the phone for free and confidential support. They are available 24/7 and can offer you help and advice on how to manage your gambling. They can even help you find a local support group to attend. They can also help you find a specialist gambling addiction clinic in your area. You can find out more by visiting our Gambling Support Page.