The Psychology and Social Implications of Gambling


Gambling is an activity in which a person stakes something of value, such as money or property, in the hope of winning a prize. It occurs in a variety of settings, including casinos, racetracks and other public places, as well as in private homes and on the Internet. People gamble for fun, to make money, and as a way to socialize with others. Gambling can also be harmful to a person’s health, both psychologically and physically.

Gambling has many benefits, including the ability to test one’s own abilities against chance, the opportunity to win, and a sense of achievement. It can also help people develop a better understanding of probability and risk. In addition, gambling provides a form of entertainment that is often cheaper than other forms of recreation, such as movies or sporting events.

The social benefits of gambling include increased tax revenues, reduced unemployment rates and a boost to the economy in the community. The revenue generated by gambling can be used to improve a local area, build community facilities or fund important services. Furthermore, gambling can create jobs in the service industry and bring more tourists to a local area.

Whether a person’s behavior is considered problematic or not, the act of gambling can have significant impacts on the individual and their relationships with significant others. These impacts can be assessed at three different levels: personal, interpersonal and community/societal. A societal perspective considers the impact of gambling in terms of the costs to society as a whole, while a personal/interpersonal perspective focuses on the impacts on the gambler’s quality of life.

The psychology of gambling is complex and diverse. Until recently, the psychiatric community viewed pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction, similar to kleptomania or pyromania. The American Psychiatric Association’s decision to move pathological gambling to the chapter on addictions in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is widely viewed as a landmark shift in how psychiatrists treat this problem. The change reflects the growing scientific consensus that gambling is a biologically based impulse-control disorder, similar to other disorders such as kleptomania and trichotillomania (hair-pulling).