Gambling involves placing something of value at risk on an event that has an element of chance, with the possibility of winning a prize. People bet on football matches, horse races, games of skill like blackjack or video poker, lottery tickets, scratchcards and more. Gambling can take many forms, and the prizes range from cash to goods. Regardless of the form, gambling causes both costs and benefits for society. While studies often focus on the economic aspects of gambling, there is also a need to examine the social costs and benefits. A public health approach can help discover these impacts, focusing on harms that impact a gambler’s social network, such as lying to friends and family about their gambling behavior or asking them to fund it.
Other positive socialization benefits of gambling include learning how to play a game and improving one’s skills. Learning a new strategy to play a casino game requires a lot of thought, so it keeps the brain sharp and is fun. Some gamblers also enjoy pooling money to go out and place a bet together.
Negative socialization effects of gambling are downplayed or ignored, and include lying to loved ones about their gambling behaviors, relying on others for money to gamble and using alcohol and drugs as a way to hide the problem from friends. People can also suffer psychological and emotional distress, including depression and anxiety, and can experience problems with their relationships and work. In addition, they may experience difficulty sleeping. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to treat a gambling addiction, such as getting professional help or attending a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous.