The Dangers of Gambling


Whether it’s betting on sports, scratch cards, poker, casino games or online gambling, the thrill of a win can lead to dangerous habits that put people and their families at risk. Problem gambling is not a choice but a serious disease that can strain relationships and lead to financial disaster. People of all walks of life can develop gambling problems, from students to retirees, and even those who are successful in their careers can find themselves losing more and more of their money.

A common reason for harmful gambling is a mood disorder, such as depression, stress or anxiety. These issues can cause or be exacerbated by compulsive gambling, so it’s important to seek help if you think you have a mental health issue. Gambling can also be a way to distract yourself from negative feelings or emotions, so if you are feeling down it’s important to take action before your gambling starts to affect other areas of your life.

There are many factors that can contribute to harmful gambling, including:

Individuals may gamble as a form of escapism, as a way to meet their basic needs or because they are seeking excitement and a rush. In fact, gambling triggers the same neurological response as taking drugs and can be just as addictive. The brain releases dopamine, which makes people feel excited and happy, but this chemical is released whether you win or lose. Ultimately, it is the pleasure from winning that keeps people hooked on gambling.

Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to engage in thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsivity, which can make them more vulnerable to developing gambling problems. Other contributing factors can include a history of trauma or abuse, or the use of drugs and alcohol. A person’s culture and environment can also play a role, as some communities consider gambling a normal pastime and may not recognise when it has become problematic.

Gambling is often associated with a positive economic impact, as it can provide jobs and tax revenues for governments. However, gross impact studies are typically biased in favour of the benefits of gambling and do not attempt to identify or quantify all costs and benefits. This is a major shortcoming because it fails to incorporate consideration of tangible and intangible effects. It also fails to distinguish between direct and indirect effects, real and transfer effects, and the geographic scope of the analysis. These are important distinctions when considering a policy on gambling. However, progress is being made to address these limitations and more balanced analysis of the costs and benefits of gambling is becoming available. For example, environmental studies that evaluate casino-related impacts now incorporate more detailed assessment of both direct and indirect benefits. These benefits are usually measured in terms of economic output and job creation, rather than solely on tax revenue. In addition, more effort is being given to identifying and evaluating intangible benefits, such as ecological impacts, which are difficult or impossible to quantify.