Gambling is the act of putting something at risk in an attempt to gain some benefit. Historically, the term has referred to activities such as buying a lottery ticket or placing a bet on sporting events or the pokies. Today, gambling refers to any type of betting activity, whether online or in person. The behavior can cause harm to the gambler and his or her family, as well as the community. Research suggests that people with an addiction to gambling may have an underactive reward system in the brain, making them more likely to be thrill-seeking and less able to control impulses. Personality traits and coexisting mental health conditions may also contribute to the development of gambling disorders. Despite this, there are no FDA-approved medications for treating pathological gambling. Moreover, integrated treatments based on eclectic theoretic conceptualizations of pathology have shown only varying degrees of effectiveness.
A major challenge in the study of gambling is its complex social, emotional and financial impacts. It is important to distinguish between costs and benefits and to analyze them on different levels, such as individual, interpersonal and community/societal levels. These impacts are often hidden or ignored in calculations, and they can have long-term effects that change a person’s life course and even pass on to future generations.
Some research has examined these social impacts using a cost-of-illness approach similar to the one used in studies on alcohol and drug abuse. However, this method neglects the benefits side of the equation. More research needs to be done on the personal and interpersonal impacts of gambling, as well as the societal/community level externalities that may include general costs/benefits, costs related to problem gambling and long-term costs.