Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event that is random or uncertain with the aim of winning something else of value. Gambling takes place in a variety of settings from casinos to home game tables and includes playing card games, dice, roulette or bingo. It can also include betting on sports events such as horse races and football matches or making bets with friends and colleagues. Gambling can offer enjoyment and excitement when done responsibly and may even help reduce stress levels for some people. However, it is important to recognize the risks involved in gambling and to balance these against the positive benefits.

The impact of gambling can be observed at the personal, interpersonal and community/societal level (Fig 1). Personal impacts involve gamblers themselves, such as changes in their financial situation. Interpersonal impacts affect those closest to the gambler, including family and work colleagues. The effects of problem gambling can be seen at the societal/community level, such as increased social services costs and debt.

The nomenclature used for describing these various gambling impacts must be flexible to allow researchers, psychiatrists and other treatment care clinicians and public policy makers to frame the questions they ask differently depending on their own disciplinary training and experience. A common approach to the topic would be beneficial to establish a foundation for research and policy making. This article reviews complementing and contrasting views on the impacts of gambling to form a model that could be the starting point for such an approach.