The Costs and Benefits of Gambling

Gambling involves risking something of value, usually money, on an uncertain event, such as a game of chance. In addition to the potential for winning, gambling also offers other benefits, such as socializing, mental development and skill improvement. However, gambling can have negative effects when it becomes an addiction.

Problem gambling can affect anyone regardless of economic status, social class, culture or level of education. It can even impact children and teens. Some people are at a greater risk for developing an addiction to gambling than others due to factors such as genetics, environment and medical history.

Whether it is the result of a stressful day at work or an argument with your spouse, gambling can provide an easy and often addictive way to relieve unpleasant feelings. It is important to learn to deal with your emotions in healthier ways. This can include exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble and practicing relaxation techniques.

Gambling has long been a popular pastime for many people. Its roots go back thousands of years, with dice etched on urns found in the tombs of the ancient Egyptians and astragalus cubes made from sheep or dog bones that predate the Trojan War. In the United States, the Depression of the 1930s fueled gambling growth by increasing the importance placed on money and business profitability.

In recent years, several studies have analyzed the costs and benefits of gambling. Most of these studies focus on the direct effects of gambling on a local economy, such as job creation and increased tax revenue. Less attention is paid to intangible costs and benefits of gambling, such as crime, social service expenditures and lost productivity. This type of benefit-cost analysis is necessary in a comprehensive assessment of gambling’s impacts on society.

While the positive aspects of gambling are well-documented, research into the costs of pathological gambling is limited. A study of the financial impact of casino gambling, for example, relies primarily on published news accounts and bankruptcy court opinions. These reports are generally region-specific and anecdotal, making it difficult to estimate the economic costs of gambling accurately. An effective approach for evaluating gambling’s benefits and costs is to apply the fundamental principles of benefit-cost analysis (Gramlich, 1990). This includes identifying tangible and intangible benefits and costs, real and economic transfers, present and future values and gains and losses in dollars (see Table 1). These basic guidelines should be followed by researchers examining the benefits and costs of gambling. They should consider all costs and benefits, including those resulting from the exploitation of vulnerable populations. This is a fundamental step toward achieving fair and equitable treatment for gambling’s societal impacts.