Gambling is a leisure activity that involves placing bets with money or other items of value on the outcome of an event – for example, a football match, horse race, or scratchcard. It is an activity in which people can win or lose money, and may also involve a social component with other players. It can occur in a variety of settings, including casinos, lotteries, and private gambling sites on the internet. The majority of people gamble responsibly, finding the activities an enjoyable diversion or source of entertainment. However, about 20 percent overindulge and incur debts that threaten their ability to support themselves and their families. This behavior is referred to as pathological gambling and was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013 as an addiction akin to substance addiction.

Although it is often associated with negative outcomes, such as financial and psychological harms, the literature demonstrates that gambling can have positive effects. For example, recreational gamblers appear to be healthier and happier than nongamblers. In addition, gambling provides individuals with a goal to work towards and the satisfaction of accomplishment when they achieve it. It is also an economic activity, generating revenue and attracting tourists.

Nevertheless, the positive aspects of gambling must be balanced against the negative impacts. A key issue in assessing gambling’s impact is its social dimension, which is difficult to measure and therefore often ignored in economic costing studies.