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Gambling - Gambling: Personality And Social Costs

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Fun, excitement, and the occasional thrill of winning seem to motivate most gamblers. Whatever else may be said against it, gambling is not physically risky. Some psychologists have even argued that gambling can be psychologically beneficial because some gamblers affirm their existence and worth by using skills in a risky setting (Kusyszyn). Other psychiatrists compare the excitement of gambling to the intoxication of drugs. A psychologist who interviewed members of Gamblers Anonymous seems to agree: "The compulsive gambler continues to bet because the action has come to be a refuge from thought of the outside world. His anxieties associated with his wife, family, debts, or job disappear when he concentrates on money and action" (Livingston, p. 55).

Pathological gambling is often cited as a major cost of gambling's expansion. A Harvard University sponsored meta-analysis of research on gambling found that 2.9 percent of gamblers had in the previous year reported "disordered and pathological" gambling. The lifetime rate was 5.4 percent. This was low as compared to alcohol dependence and abuse (9.7%, previous year; 23.5% lifetime). Disordered gamblers often experience "co-morbidity," that is, other life problems, such as alcoholism or drug abuse.

Those citing the social costs of gambling usually include, in addition to pathological or disordered gambling, its attraction to youth, elevated crime rates, suicide rates, family problems, bankruptcy, and the corruption of legislators. However, since gambling also provides economic benefits through employment opportunity, economic renewal of declining resorts and urban areas, and taxation, legal gambling has become an increasingly attractive option for many communities. As expansion has continued, at the turn of the century a backlash has occurred, with several states declining to introduce lotteries or casinos.

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