Gambling is an activity in which people place bets on the outcome of a game or event. It can be done on a computer, at a casino, or at a race track. Gambling can have both positive and negative effects on individuals, families, and communities. While gambling can provide enjoyment and socialization, it can also lead to increased debt and loss of income. There are several ways to reduce the negative impacts of gambling, including setting money and time limits and refusing to chase losses.

Partial reinforcement

Humans want to feel in control – it’s part of our nature – and the frustration of how unpredictable gambling can be can cause gamblers to try to gain some level of control over it. They may think that they can manipulate the odds by throwing dice in a certain way, sitting in a specific spot or wearing a ‘lucky’ item of clothing. They may also believe that their chances of winning increase after a streak of losses, or after losing money. This is false. The chance of a win doesn’t increase after a sequence of losses, just like the chance of flipping heads on 7 tails isn’t higher after 6 tails than it was before.

Most research into gambling focuses on its economic impacts on society, but it is important to consider the other costs and benefits. The literature suggests that these other costs can be categorized into personal, interpersonal and community/society levels, but there are challenges in defining these intangible social impacts. A public health approach would be a useful starting point, using quality of life weights to uncover these hidden costs.