Gambling involves risking something of value on an uncertain event in the hope of gaining something of value (either money or goods). It ranges from buying lottery tickets to the elaborate casino gambling of the wealthy. It may be legal or illegal, and it is usually considered an undesirable pastime. Skill can reduce the odds of losing, but there is no guarantee of winning. This is because gambling is essentially random, although knowledge of strategies can improve a gambler’s chances of winning certain games.

It is often portrayed in the media as exciting, glamorous and fashionable. It can also be an escape from reality or a way to cope with life’s problems. For some, it is an addiction. It can lead to financial ruin, family breakdown and even suicide. Problem gambling can affect people of any age, race or religion. It can occur in small towns or big cities. It can be a result of poverty, depression or boredom. It can also be the result of being addicted to drugs or alcohol.

While many studies have investigated negative impacts of gambling, positive outcomes have received less attention. This is partly due to the difficulty of quantifying them. It is also because a focus on the positives can distort the overall picture of gambling’s impact on society.

A number of negative consequences have been associated with gambling, ranging from increased crime to social disorganization and loss of community spirit. However, there are some positive consequences of gambling, including entertainment, social interaction, a sense of community and economic benefits.

In recent years, there has been a change in the way that adverse consequences of gambling are viewed. Previously, individuals who developed gambling problems were seen as people with character flaws; now they are classified as having psychological problems, analogous to the recognition of alcoholism as a mental illness. This change in understanding has coincided with the development of new therapies, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), that are designed to treat gambling disorders.

Using a public health approach, gambling impacts can be structuralised in terms of costs and benefits. Costs and benefits are categorized into three classes: financial, labor and health and well-being. Financial impacts can include gambling revenues, tourism and impacts on other industries. Labor impacts include changes in labour productivity and effects on the workforce, such as absenteeism and reduced performance. Health and well-being impacts include the effects on physical, mental and social wellbeing and quality of life.

Despite these potential benefits, there are significant barriers to analyzing gambling impacts. Especially in the case of non-monetary, community/society level impacts, which are difficult to measure and thus are frequently overlooked in calculations. This is a common mistake, as it results in a biased estimate of the costs and benefits of gambling. To counteract this, it is important to examine a variety of methodologies that can be used to calculate gambling impacts. One such method is the use of quality of life weights, or Disability Weights (DW). The DW can be applied to any outcome, whether positive or negative.