Gambling involves putting something of value at risk on an event that is determined, at least in part, by chance. It can include things like betting on a football match or buying a scratchcard, but also games of skill such as poker and blackjack, as well as chance-based activities such as slot machines, lotteries and coin flipping. It can even be conducted with items that have a value but don’t represent real money such as marbles or collectible game pieces (like Pogs and Magic: The Gathering).
Whether playing a game of skill or luck, gambling has both positive and negative impacts on people. Positive effects include the pleasure and excitement experienced while gambling. Studies have shown that this is caused by the release of dopamine in the brain, a chemical similar to those produced when taking illegal drugs.
Negative effects of gambling can include problems with finances and social interactions. Problem gamblers may experience stress, anxiety, depression and loss of self-control. They may spend more time gambling and less time on other activities such as work, family and friends. This can lead to debt and poverty and can also result in a breakdown of relationships.
Gambling has costs and benefits at the personal, interpersonal and societal level (Fig 1). Costs are often monetary but they can also be a result of changes in working conditions and social disruptions. Benefits include revenues generated by gambling and taxation, the development of new industries and tourism.