The Role of Social Structures in Gambling

Gambling is the act of risking money or material valuables on an uncertain outcome – such as the roll of a dice, the spin of a wheel, or the result of a race. While gambling has a long history, it was once widely considered immoral and illegal. However, today, people gamble for many reasons, including socializing with friends, relieving stress, and enjoying the excitement of winning. The prospect of a big jackpot win triggers feelings of euphoria, which are linked to brain reward circuits (Per Binde and colleagues, 2013).

Many different types of gambling exist, including social gambling, online gambling, and sports betting. Social gambling includes playing card games or board games with friends for small amounts of money, participating in a sports betting pool, and buying lottery tickets. Online gambling involves using computer programs to place bets on events. Sports betting is heavily promoted in the media and is particularly popular among young men. Research suggests that these gambling practices are linked to negative psychological and financial consequences.

Although there is a wealth of gambling research that focuses on individual behaviour and addiction, there is a growing corpus of socio-cultural studies considering the role of wider social structures in gambling practice. Harm reduction strategies could benefit from a shift away from the current emphasis on psychological and economic models of behaviour to acknowledge the influence of these wider structures.

A recent study by ALSPAC researchers looked at the associations between a range of personal and social factors and the level of participation in gambling across three time-points. Using a population of young adults, the researchers found that there was a clear association between gambling participation and lower IQ, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Other factors found to be associated with gambling included a high external locus of control and sensation seeking.

The researchers also examined the role of gender, with males more likely than females to engage in all types of gambling. The ALSPAC sample was also predominantly white, and the data collection methodology included self-reports which are subject to biases such as social desirability and memory recall. This means that the findings should be interpreted with caution.

If you have an unhealthy relationship with gambling, it is important to seek help and support. Professionals can help you work through the specific issues that have caused your problem and help you find healthier and more effective ways to deal with your emotions, boredom, stress, or loneliness. They can also help you develop a budget and teach you skills for money management and credit repair. If you have a family, they can help you re-establish a healthy relationship with your children and spouse. In addition, therapists can help you develop skills for conflict resolution and improve your parenting abilities. Moreover, marriage, career and credit counseling can help you heal from the problems that have been created by your gambling behavior.