Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value, typically money, on a random event or game with the potential to win a larger prize. It can be done in many ways, including casino games, sports betting, lottery games, and online gambling. Gambling can be fun and harmless for some, but for others it is a serious addiction that can lead to financial and personal problems. It can also cause mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Gamblers often choose what they want to bet on – this could be a football team or scratchcard, and then match that choice to ‘odds’ set by the company (this is what determines how much money you can potentially win). Those who gamble tend to be happy people, as studies have shown, although there are also negative long-term impacts on individuals, families and communities, such as increased debt and strain, escalating into bankruptcy and homelessness.
The key methodological challenges in studying the effects of gambling are around defining and measuring social impacts. Historically, researchers have largely ignored these impacts, focusing instead on monetary costs and benefits – which are relatively easy to quantify. The problem with this is that it overlooks the fact that many social impacts are non-monetary and can be difficult to quantify. For example, Williams et al. have argued that social costs must aggregate societal real wealth, while Walker and Barnett argue that they should be defined as “costs that affect the whole society” rather than individual gamblers.