Gambling has a variety of impacts, both positive and negative, on individuals, communities, and societies. The impacts are not always immediate, but can be long-lasting and change the trajectory of an individual or a generation. The negative effects of gambling can cause problems both personally and financially, and negatively impact the social and economic fabric of a community.
While most studies of gambling have focused on the economic benefits and costs, the social impacts are less well understood. Nonetheless, the economic impacts of gambling have been defined by researchers such as Walker and Barnett. They define social costs as “harm done to some person but not to themselves.” In other words, they consider the costs of gambling to be social, not personal.
There is a need for a better understanding of the benefits and negative impacts of gambling to make public policy informed. Many studies of gambling have focused on the negative effects, particularly in the form of problem gambling. However, they have neglected to address the positive social impacts of gambling. Even nongamblers may face financial costs related to gambling.
Gambling impact studies can help policymakers compare different types of gambling policies and identify the ones that will increase benefits and reduce costs. In addition, such studies can provide comparative data between different types of gambling, such as alcohol consumption, based on various criteria. There are also a variety of other factors that must be considered.
Gambling is widespread in the United States and is regulated by state and federal law. Some state laws restrict gambling methods and types. Federal laws also limit the extent of gambling on Native American land. For example, Congress has enacted legislation prohibiting unauthorized transportation of lottery tickets between states and outlawed sports betting on Indian land.