Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. The event could be a football match, a horse race or even just a scratchcard. A player places a bet by choosing a team or event and then matches that choice to ‘odds’, which are set by the betting company and are usually shown on the screen. These odds determine how much money the punter can win.
Betting companies promote their wares predominantly through advertising on TV or social media and via wall-to-wall sponsorship of football clubs. However, gambling is different from most other consumer products in that it relies not just on advertising to attract customers but on creating a product which will keep them coming back and spending their hard-earned cash. In order to do this, the gambling industry needs to offer a ‘perception of fairness’ – a perception that there is a decent chance of winning some money. This is despite the fact that in the long term, gambling is a negative activity which causes harm to gamblers, their families and society.
A common misconception of gambling is that it generates many benefits for the community, such as increased tourism and local tax revenue. However, research has found that the net impact of gambling on the community is negative. In addition, gambling revenues are volatile and rely on outsiders to visit the area and spend their money. This makes them susceptible to economic cycles, making them prone to boom-and-bust patterns.
In the past, most studies have focused on measuring monetary costs and benefits. However, these are often distorted by the application of Miles’ Law, which predicts that those who benefit from gambling will support it. For example, elected government leaders who see casinos as a way to solidify a city’s economic base will support gambling; bureaucrats in agencies that are promised gaming revenue will also support it; and owners of large casinos will support it because they will profit from the operation.
If you or a loved one has a gambling problem, there are ways to help. Seek treatment from a therapist and build a strong support network. Join a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, to help you overcome your addiction. And, if you can, make sure that you address any mood disorders such as depression or anxiety, which may be triggers or made worse by gambling. Also, consider taking up a new hobby, such as painting or knitting, to take your mind off gambling and give yourself something else to focus on. It’s important to remember that it takes a tremendous amount of strength and courage to admit that you have a gambling problem, especially if you have lost significant amounts of money or strained or even broken relationships as a result of your addiction. Fortunately, there are people who have successfully overcome gambling addiction and rebuilt their lives. You can do it too!