The Effects of Gambling on Individuals, Families, and Communities


Gambling involves putting something of value, usually money, on an event with some element of chance. Some examples include betting on sports events, horse races, video games, lottery tickets, scratch cards, and casino games like blackjack, baccarat, and roulette. While the majority of gambling is done at casinos, many people also gamble from home using online games or by telephone. The monetary rewards of gambling can be considerable, but there are also significant costs associated with this activity. These costs can affect individuals, families, and communities in various ways.

The effects of gambling can be structuralized using a benefits and costs model, where impacts manifest on personal, interpersonal, and societal/community levels. At the individual level, these include financial impacts (gains and losses), labor/work impacts, and health/well-being impacts. At the interpersonal/community level, these include invisible impacts on family members and others. At the societal/community level, these are the external impacts, which may be general or related to problem gambling and long-term costs.

For some, the attraction of a casino and the excitement of gambling can provide a form of escapism. This escape from everyday stressors is possible due to the brain’s natural response to a reward-seeking behavior. When playing gambling games, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of happiness and anticipation. This sensation is similar to the feeling that one experiences when eating a good meal or spending time with loved ones, and it can make people feel rewarded even after losing a wager.

However, some people’s gambling behaviors are problematic and can cause them to experience negative consequences in their lives. These issues can include:

For these people, psychotherapy is often recommended by mental health professionals. This treatment approach offers a variety of techniques to help a person identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Some forms of psychotherapy can include psychodynamic therapy, which looks at how unconscious processes influence a person’s actions, and group therapy, which is useful for people who struggle to connect with their peers. Additionally, addressing any other mental health conditions that may be contributing to a person’s gambling behavior can help them seek help before it’s too late.