The issue of gambling has always been an issue that has been debated. The arguments against it have in general been due to the negative impacts it has had to families and society (Jarvis, 1989). Despite this established negative impact, gambling continues to be one of the most prevalent problems of most societies. At the same time, there are new regulation and legislation that have allowed for greater access to gambling in the interest of generating revenues for cities (Rogers, 1997).
The effects of gambling are not limited to the direct context of its practice or the gamblers only. According to Bruce (2001), the urgent and critical impact of gambling lies in its potential to affect relationships, human productivity and crime tendencies. Gambling is not just a problem of an individual but a social problem that extends not only in its context but extends in terms of the parties involved, social cost among other impacts.
In the article written by Jarvis (1989), the issue of gambling is discusses not only as a vice but as social and personal issue. He says that as much as gambling itself is an issue for concern, the perceptions developed about it should also one of the issues that have to be made better understood. He has the opinion that if people are made to understand the real odds involved in gambling, then efforts to discourage the vice will be more effective. Ultimately, it is the lack of this understanding that allows for the optimisms in terms of returns and the vulnerability to manipulation and fraud as well.
Jarvis first tackles the social costs of gambling. He says that there is evidence of a direct relationship between the incidences of crime: crime rates increased as much as 800% upon the legalization of gambling in Mississippi. He also cites the addictive nature of gambling as another compelling cost to society saying that legalization of gambling in Iowa raised the rate of compulsive gamblers from 1.7% to 5.4%. States that have legalized gambling have also said that there is also a 10% increase in the development of milder cases of compulsive gambling upon related legalization. What is alarming is that these figures only represent data derived from legal gambling activates. Jarvis estimates that illegal gambling activities can rival legitimate ones and this is regardless of the real economics of the area. At the same time, there are more reported personal and family conflicts that are attributed to gambling related problems. Gambling can take a heavy toll on finances as well as time that could have been better spent.
Though there is a general understanding that odds are often against gamblers winning, there is little understanding of the degree of these odds. Many people’s understanding of gambling is limited to probability but very few understand the costs. Jarvis example of slot machines, considered as one of the highest yielding gambles, highlights that the odds are not only in favor of the house in the long run, they are always in favor of the house at any point in time. As cited by Jarivs, Fran Lebowitz has summed up the odds of wining any significant price through gambling such as buying ticket for a lottery as “the same chance of winning the lottery whether you play or not” (para. 9).
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) (2006), treating gambling problems is similar to treating any other kind of addiction. However, unlike illegal drugs which are directly stated as bad for you, many gamblers develop their addiction legally. There are no laws stating that excessive gambling is illegal: technically, as long as one can afford it, one can pursue it. The reality of the habit however is that even if one can afford the monetary demands of gambling, the impact it has to relationships and families can not be compensated as easily.
Considering this, the CAMH encourages gamblers to the need to understand first the incidence of the habit in its social and personal context. At the same time, Bruce and Schmidt (2001) emphasize the need for strong social contracts to ensure the modification of behavior. Since there are statutes that allow for gambling, the effort to refrain from gambling lies in the individual rather than any treatment he pursues.
Rogers (2005) in his book Gambling: Don’t Bet on It says that there is a needed for constant personal vigilance. Rogers’ approach to the issue is practical and pragmatic: he understands that gambling is part of any society and that it’s unlikely that the revenues it generates will be sacrificed to protect moral virtue. However, he cites that there should be greater effort in educating the public about the realities of gambling so that informed choices can be made. Gambling is not a quick solution to support financial needs or aspirations rather that it is a risky and often unkind means of improving financial standing.
Rogers points out that the prevalence of gambling habits is not just an issue of personal addiction but also is an insight to the values of a society. He further points out that no amount of legalization will curb illegal gambling activities. The only solution for this is effective legal and police efforts. Even if gambling contributes financially to development directly through state sponsored lotteries or indirectly by the tax revenues, the social costs of gambling will eventfully outeiwgh their benefits. The solution that can have any long term and effective results is proper education and the emphasizing that gambling should be treated as amusement or diversion at the most and not a livelihood (Rogers, 1997).
Gambling is as old as society itself. It is a source of excitement, triumph and financial success. Yet it has also caused harm and even death not only to gamblers but to everyone else who are in their proximity. The only true weapon against it is cultivating knowledge of its realities. People should understand not only how it works and the odds it entails but they should also be given the means of realizing its emotional, psychological and social impacts.
To be able to accomplish this, government and the civil sector must work together to develop better knowledge about gambling. Government should consider closely whether or not the revenue that ca be generated form gambling can truly compensate for its negative impact. Programs for treating gambling addiction should be accessible and have relevant literature and programs. Ultimately, it is society’s attitude towards gambling the can solve it: the resolve to stamp out gambling lies in every individual choice and the commitment to creating a better society free of this vice.
Bruce, Dayle and Schmidt, Mark (2001). The Effects of Problem Gambling on the Family. Developments Vol. 21 Issue 3. Retrieved on April 27, 2007 from http://corp.aadac.com/developments/dev_news_vol21_issue3.asp
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2006). Why Can’t I Just Stop?. Retrieved on April 27, 2007 from http://www.problemgambling.ca/About_Gambling_and_Problem_Gambling/Information_about_problem_gambling/Effects_of_Gambling/page26479.html
Jarvis, Tyler J. (1989). Gambling: What are the Odds?. Retrieved on April 27, 2007 from http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view;a=44
Rogers, Rex M. (1997). Seducing America: Is Gambling a Good Bet?. New York: Baker Publishing Group
Rogers, Rex M. (2005). Gambling: Don’t Bet on It. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.