Gambling involves placing something of value on an event that is at least partly determined by chance in the hope that it will be successful and yield a profit. It is not just about making bets in casinos or betting on sports events; it can also include playing card games, board games, buying lottery or scratch tickets and even participating in office pools. It is important to note that not all gambling activities are equal, and that some can be considered more serious than others. In addition, some people can develop an addiction to gambling and need treatment.
The impact of gambling is complex and can be viewed at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1). The personal level impacts affect gamblers themselves and may include invisible individual costs that are not easily measured, such as the psychological damage caused by gambling. The interpersonal level impacts affect those close to gamblers, such as friends and family members. The community/society level impacts can be monetary or non-monetary and include general costs/benefits, effects of problem gambling and long term impacts.
Many studies have used an economic approach to measure gambling impacts, but this only includes monetary values and fails to take into account the positive benefits that can be derived from gambling. Alternatively, a public health approach could be used to examine the positive impacts of gambling on society by using quality of life weights, such as disability weights. This would provide a more accurate way to assess the social impact of gambling.