The Social Costs and Benefits of Gambling


Despite the fact that gambling has many positive impacts on the economy, few studies have looked at the social costs and benefits of gambling. While gambling has been known to contribute to economic activity, its effects extend beyond the individual to the entire community. Gambling can affect not only a person’s bank account but also other people in close proximity, including family members and friends. This can lead to homelessness and bankruptcy. However, these are largely unrecognized negative consequences.

Although gambling may not be a desirable activity, it is often a pastime enjoyed by people of all ages and income levels. Seniors have noted that casino visits provide a social outlet. While this social benefit is not the only one associated with gambling, it is one of the most common among younger people. Gambling counsellors are free and confidential, and they are available to help anyone struggling with a gambling problem. These professionals are available around the clock.

Governments regulate gambling in order to protect consumers from harm. Governments must spend more to regulate gambling than it generates in profits. This is because gambling is associated with increased social inequality. Higher-income households spend more than lower-income households, while poorer households lose more money on gambling. Further, governments bear the burden of the social costs of gambling, ranging from increased taxes to a reduction in government revenues. The Victorian Government alone spent $52 million on gambling services during the 2014-15 financial year.

A public health approach to gambling impact assessment focuses on the positive and negative impacts of gambling across the severity spectrum. By focusing on the negative effects of gambling, it fails to recognize the positive effects of the activity. Even nonproblem gamblers are susceptible to harm, and the cost of gambling is underestimated. If the economic costs of gambling are underestimated, they should be considered in gambling policy. The social costs and benefits of gambling must be carefully considered, and a balanced evidence base should be the foundation for public policies.

The prevalence of problem gambling among college-aged adults is higher than that of their older counterparts. It is possible that broader developmental problems are contributing factors to this higher prevalence. The British Gambling Prevalence Study found that problem gambling was significantly higher among 16-24 year-old men than among those aged 65-74 years of age. However, this difference is not entirely clear. Further, adolescent problem gamblers are more likely to spend their pocket money or a video game console, while adults may only use it as a way to pass the time.

The oldest evidence of gambling dates back to the ancient Chinese. Apparently, people used tiles to play a lottery-type game around 2,300 B.C. The most simple form of gambling is coin flipping. The tosser calls “heads or tails,” assigning opposite sides to the coins. Coin flipping is not completely random, however, and the human factor makes the outcome highly unpredictable. For instance, the tosser may let the coin fall on the floor, or catch it and turn it over the other hand.