Gambling is any game of chance or skill in which a person stakes something of value for the potential to win a prize. It includes games like lotteries, sports betting, and casino games like roulette and poker. It also includes gambling on the Internet and gas stations.
Gambling can be a fun and exciting pastime, but it is not for everyone. It can be addictive and cause serious problems if it is not treated properly.
The negative effects of gambling are well-known, and include loss of self-control, mental health problems, and financial crises. Many people who are addicted to gambling lose their lives to addiction and never recover from it.
There are also social costs associated with gambling, including criminal justice system costs, loss of productivity by workers who are pathological gamblers, and emotional pain and suffering from family members. These costs are difficult to quantify in dollar terms, but they are often incurred in local communities.
Benefit-cost analysis is a tool for measuring the net economic and social benefits and costs of gambling. It aims to identify those benefits and costs that are directly related to gambling, as well as those that are not directly related to gambling but which may be transferred or enhanced by it (Grinols and Omorov 1995).
In addition, benefit-cost analysis identifies indirect effects. These include social costs and environmental effects, such as damage to natural resources that may be transferred or enhanced by gambling.
Several studies have attempted to measure the costs of gambling, including those associated with problem gambling. However, some of these studies focus more on description than analysis (Aasved and Laundergan 1993; Aasved, 1995).
One study aimed to estimate the social cost of gambling by using benefit-cost analysis. It compared the net effects of increasing access to gambling facilities with the externality costs (Grinols and Omorov, 1995).
The authors found that increasing access to casinos essentially offsets the externality costs associated with pathological gambling. They also concluded that the overall social and economic impact of the expansion of casino gambling in the United States was positive, resulting in an increase in income and employment.
A benefit-cost analysis is not a perfect approach to identifying the negative social and economic impacts of gambling, but it can be useful in assessing its relative costs and benefits. It is important to recognize that there are intangible social costs, such as emotional pain and other losses experienced by family members of pathological gamblers, that are not measurable with benefit-cost analysis (Grinols and Omorov, 1993).
Some people who have a gambling problem have underlying mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These conditions can contribute to an unhealthy relationship with gambling, and they can be treated through therapy. Behavioral therapy can help those with gambling problems learn healthier ways to relieve unpleasant emotions, such as anger or boredom, and to control their gambling urges. Psychotherapy can also teach them how to resolve their financial and work problems that are caused by gambling.