Gambling involves the placing of a wager on an uncertain event. It may be a football match, a scratchcard or something else. A bet is matched to odds, which are a mathematical calculation of the chances of winning. The odds are based on a combination of factors, including luck, skill and knowledge. For example, a person’s premium paid for life insurance is in effect a bet that they will die within a specified time, and the insurer sets the odds according to actuarial data.
Gambling can also be a social activity, as it allows people to meet with friends and colleagues at casinos, racecourses, etc. It can also be used to relax and relieve stress. The excitement and suspense of gambling can also help people to keep their brains active, which is good for mental health. It can also lead to learning new skills, such as observing patterns and numbers.
While there is much research on the negative impacts of gambling, few studies examine the positive aspects of it. This article aims to review complementing and contrasting views on the benefits and costs of gambling using a public health approach. In addition, it discusses ways to measure these effects. Impacts are observed at personal, interpersonal and community/societal levels (Fig 1). The latter refer to those who are not gamblers and who may be affected by the consequences of gambling. These can include the increase in family debt and financial strain, which can cause problems for significant others and other people in a gambler’s social network.