The Hidden Costs of Gambling

Gambling is an activity in which a person stakes something of value, such as money or goods, on the outcome of a random event. It includes any form of betting where the odds are against the player, such as placing a bet on a football game or scratchcard. It also includes gambling in casinos, horse races and other places where people gather to place bets. It is an addictive and risky activity that can cause serious harm, especially to those with addictions.

Despite the negative consequences of gambling, many individuals continue to engage in it for a variety of reasons. These can include financial problems, boredom, depression or a desire to escape from their everyday lives and thoughts. In addition, the media often portrays gambling as fun, sexy and glamorous.

When a person is engaged in gambling, certain brain activities take place that activate the same areas of the brain that are stimulated by taking drugs of abuse. These brain activities trigger the release of dopamine, which gives a person a feeling of reward. These activities may even lead to a “high” or euphoria that can last for a period of time.

This sensation can be so strong that people develop a dependence on the activity and will engage in it to feel better about themselves. Eventually, the negative effects of gambling can outweigh the positive ones, which can include social distancing and withdrawal from friends and family. In addition, those who become addicted to gambling may not be able to control their spending and will spend their money without a thought to the consequences.

A person who is addicted to gambling can have a great deal of difficulty admitting the problem to others and can be secretive about their behavior. They may even lie to their significant other about how much they are spending or gamble in private, believing that their partner will not understand their need to take risks and will surprise them with a large win.

While studies have primarily focused on the economic benefits and costs of gambling, they can also have social and emotional impacts that are difficult to quantify. The main methodological challenges in measuring these social impacts are that they do not involve monetary items and therefore cannot be measured by traditional cost-benefit analyses. To address this issue, researchers are exploring the use of quality-of-life weights, or disability weights, to discover hidden costs related to gambling that affect a person’s family and community. This is a promising approach to identify the intangible social costs of gambling, which are not easily captured in a financial context. This may help reduce the stigma surrounding gambling and encourage individuals to seek treatment if they are struggling. This article has been edited from a version published in the journal Addictions in 2010. Read the original article here.