The Effects of Gambling

Gambling is a form of risk-taking where individuals stake something of value for the chance to win a prize. This can take place in many places including casinos, bingo halls, street magic boxes and online. It can be an enjoyable pastime for some people and provide a source of income for businesses. However, it is also known to have a number of negative impacts. These impacts can be seen at the individual, interpersonal and society/community levels (Fig 1).

A common effect of gambling is that it makes people feel in control. This feeling is caused by the fact that chance does not work in a linear way. For example, if a coin flip comes up tails 7 times in a row, the chances of getting heads are not increased, as our brains will try to make us believe by rationalising that it will balance out next time. It is this illusion of control that can cause some gamblers to keep playing, despite the fact that they are likely to lose more than they win.

In addition, gamblers are often more sensitive to losses than gains of the same magnitude. This is because their prefrontal cortex is less active, meaning there is little or no self-control being exerted. As a result, they are compelled to spend more money trying to ‘make up’ for their losses, which then becomes an uncontrollable addiction.

Another problem with gambling is that it can be socially damaging. It can affect family relationships, performance at work and study and lead to debt and even homelessness. It can also cause emotional distress, anxiety and depression in some people. In severe cases, it can lead to pathological gambling, which was previously referred to as compulsive gambling and is now classed as an addiction similar to substance addiction.

People often lie about their gambling habits to hide their activities and avoid being caught. This can cause tension in their relationships, particularly if they are spending more and more of their money on it each month. Moreover, a person who feels they are losing control of their gambling may start to steal from their friends and family members in an attempt to fund their habit. In extreme cases, this can lead to domestic violence, robbery and other types of criminal behaviour. Luckily, there are organisations that can help people to gain more control over their gambling and stop it causing them harm. These services are offered by a variety of charities, support groups and organisations that specialise in helping vulnerable adults. They can offer advice and guidance as well as a range of other services, such as counselling. Safeguarding Courses can also help to identify areas of concern and provide suitable training for those working in a safeguarding role. Click here to find out more.