Gambling can be a fun and entertaining activity when enjoyed responsibly, but it can have serious consequences for individuals, their families, and their communities. Not only can gambling cause financial hardship and impair relationships, but it can also increase rates of criminal behavior, substance use disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts, and actions, as well
Impact on Individuals
The most obvious effect is financial. People with compulsive gambling habits may weaken their financial condition by gambling away their hard-earned money or even borrowing large sums of money to support their habit. It can also lead to legal troubles in some instances, such as bankruptcy or fraud. People who overspend when playing online pokies real money in an attempt to win back losses may find themselves facing criminal charges for theft.
The other major impact of gambling is on personal relationships. As debts and losses mount, fights between spouses and debts owed to family members are not uncommon scenarios for people with a gambling problem. Friends may tire of helping their irresponsible friends out of gambles gone wrong and eventually, the quality of life will begin to diminish as the person spends more time at the casino or other locations for betting activities instead of investing time into meaningful relationships with others.
Impact on Families
Families are often the most significantly impacted by problem gambling. Financial, health, and social factors can create chaos in family life, especially if the gambler is a spouse or parent. Family members may be unaware of or unwilling to admit that there is a problem, but common signs include secretive behavior, frequent arguments around money, and unexplained absences.
The most immediate harms come in the form of financial distress caused by the gambler’s losses. The household may experience serious economic setbacks due to the gambler’s spending on wagering activities, combined with lost income from skipped workdays or job losses due to investing so much time and energy into gambling. Long-term consequences might include
- bankruptcy filings
- unpaid debts
all resulting from unchecked gambling causes financial ruin for everyone involved.
Impact on Communities
Wagering can have both positive and negative effects on communities. On the positive side, the income generated from gambling activities can be used to finance projects and services that benefit the local community such as public infrastructure, economic development grants, and job expansion. Communities may also benefit from increased tourism and increased tax revenue for the region.
On the other hand, however, gambling can lead to social issues. Studies have shown that communities that have an overabundance of wagering establishments tend to experience increases in violent crime and poverty rates. These activities may also become a source of corruption as politicians are bribed or coerced into allowing or promoting gambling operations in their districts. As a result, many states require gaming venues to invest in social programs that help reduce potential harms caused by problem gambling such as assistance with debt relief programs or mental health services for at-risk gamblers.
Finally, there is also evidence that suggests that overly restrictive state-mandated regulations on gaming establishments can lead to decreased business activity across all industries in a region due to reduced consumer spending when compared with similar locations without restrictive regulations on gaming businesses. Thus, it is important for lawmakers to strike a balance between encouraging responsible economic growth and taking measures to reduce any potential negative side effects caused by unregulated gaming venues.
Treatment and Support for Addiction
When someone discovers a problem in themselves, a family member, or a friend, it’s important to address the issue and seek help. Treatment and support for problem gambling can take many forms, ranging from self-help and peer support to psychotherapy and medication.
Self-help is often the first step for people when dealing with a gambling issue. Several online sources provide information about self-help tools, such as websites offering interactive modules that allow users to identify their own problematic behaviors (and thereby create personalized plans) as well as other gambling challenges they may be experiencing.
Counseling or therapy can help people suffering from problem gambling better understand their behavior while learning how to develop better decision-making skills related to their urges. Counseling is typically conducted by licensed mental health practitioners such as psychologists or social workers.
There are various medications that have been approved for treating problematic behavior related to problem gambling such as naltrexone (which helps reduce cravings) or antidepressants (which can reduce depression symptoms). Generally speaking, medications should only be used under the supervision of a trained professional.
Family therapy seeks to address the underlying causes of problematic behavior within family systems by engaging family members in the treatment process through communication exercises and activities that focus on understanding why certain behavioral patterns exist and how they can be addressed in constructive ways.
Education campaigns and outreach programs can help spread awareness about the dangers of problem gambling as well as provide resources for those affected. Professional organizations such as Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and other community groups can be used to educate at-risk populations, including youth and adolescents.
In addition to education, early detection of potential problems is essential. Healthcare professionals should be able to identify the signs of problem gambling in individual patients or families through screening methods such as patient surveys or clinical interviews. Mental health providers or counselors may also benefit from specialized training in recognizing signs of pathological or problem gambling.
Behavioral treatments have been shown to be effective at reducing harm related to problem gambling, with a range of evidence-based approaches available. One important strategy that individuals may find helpful is creating an action plan before engaging in gambling activities; this allows them to establish realistic goals and stick with their plan even when faced with temptations or peer pressure. Other therapeutic strategies include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Motivational Interviewing (MI)
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Contingency Management (CM)
Ultimately, the real impact of gambling relies on the individual and their perception of it. People who view gambling as a form of harmless entertainment usually remain safe when acting within their means, but complacency often leads to addiction. Gamblers that reach this point are likely to fall into a pattern of chasing losses and using gambling as an escape from their problems. This can cause serious consequences for their financial situation and relationships with their friends, family, and community.