Gambling is an activity wherein a person wagers something of value on a random event, with the intention of winning something else of value. The wager can be money or any other item of value that has a positive expectable value. It is important to note that the activity involves an element of risk and is not without consequence. The act of gambling can have significant social, psychological, health and financial implications for individuals as well as the community as a whole.

A large percentage of the population gambles. While many gamble for fun and enjoyment, others do it to make money. Some people even gamble to relieve boredom or stress. The majority of gambling is done in casinos, but it can also be played in home settings such as card games and dice games. Other forms of gambling include sports betting, bingo and lottery tickets.

Problem gambling occurs when a person becomes addicted to the activity. The addiction can affect a person’s personal life, family and work and may result in financial ruin and loss of property and other assets. Some of the most common causes of gambling problems are boredom, depression, loss of control, impulsivity and a poor understanding of random events. Some researchers have compared the symptoms of gambling disorder to those of alcohol and drug abuse, and pathological gambling has been included in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association.

It is estimated that about one billion people worldwide participate in gambling activities each year. This amounts to a huge economic contribution for countries that offer such facilities. In addition, gambling provides a source of revenue for charitable and community groups as well as for local businesses and governments. The profits from these activities are used to fund a variety of public services and amenities such as hospitals, roads and schools.

In most studies on gambling, the negative impacts of the activity are more prominent than the positive effects. This may be due to the fact that researchers, psychiatrists, other treatment care clinicians and public policy makers tend to view gambling issues from different paradigms or world views. Moreover, they have often developed their perspectives on these issues based on their own disciplinary training and experience as well as special interests.

The social impacts of gambling are usually observed at the individual, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig 1). The impact at the individual level refers to the gambler and the people that he or she is close to, such as family and friends. The impact at the interpersonal and society/community levels refer to those who are not the gamblers themselves, such as those who are impacted by their increased debt, or those who are exploited through the activities of problem gamblers. These social impacts can be quantified using health-related quality of life weights, also known as Disability Weights. The use of these weights enables researchers and policy makers to compare costs and benefits across the entire spectrum of gambling.