The negative effects of gambling have been researched, touted, published and spewed forth from the mouths of researchers and do-gooders for decades, yet there has been an astonishing lack of research accomplished on the positive aspects of gambling influences on modern society (or even past societies for that matter). The reason behind such paucity might be that there are no positive aspects to gambling and that it leads to a plethora of problems that have negative connotations written all over them. On the other hand, it could also be that researchers have just not taken the time or made the effort to determine the positive aspects primarily because it is so easy to see the negative over the positive. This lack of effort on the researcher's part could also be that they do not wish to be seen personally commending an act that so many others find reprehensible.
Yet, gambling (or as some call it 'gaming') continues to grow and thrive in America today. A recent report determined that there are over 53 million American gamblers, that is defined by the industry as "folks who have gone gambling more than five times in a given year" (Nealon 465). Based on the current population of the United States, 53 million is over 26% of the adult population. Great Britain has an even higher incidence of gambling with some reports stating the 71% of Britain's adult males and 67% of Britain's adult females gamble at least one time per month. What is really troublesome about these figures is highlighted by another recent study that determined that "for every individual with a gambling problem it is estimated that somewhere between five and seventeen other individuals are adversely affected by it" (Valentine, Hughes 275).
What the study did not find was whether those same individuals who are adversely affected by the problem gambler are also positively affected when the gambler wins (assuming that he or she wins at least once in a while).
A 2006 review of gambling found that the most common problems reported by a gambler's family include the fact that he or she loses household and personal funds, gambling initiates arguments, causes anger and violence, is at the root of lies, deception and neglect of family members, negatively affects the gambler's personal relationships, leads to poor communication and a confusion of family roles and responsibilities and can lead to other destructive behaviors and addictions (Kalischuk, Nowatzki, Cardwell, Klein, and Solowoniuk 2006) while another survey found that amongst problem gamblers "divorce and separation are common" (Orford, Wardle, Griffiths, Sproston, Erens 259).
All of the above mentioned problems are very negative when taken out of context. When one looks at them as integral parts of society, a different picture can emerge. First of all, gambling creates jobs. This is true in that the gambling industry in America now legally employees hundreds of thousands of individuals. Each of these employees pays taxes, hence revenue to the government (local, state and federal) are enhanced by income from productive employees. The economies of many local communities thrive on the taxes generated through nearby casinos and gambling institutions; without the gambling halls, places such as Mesquite, Nevada would not be the thriving communities that they are. It is not just the casinos and gambling halls that provide jobs, however. Based upon the 'destructive behaviors and addictions' found by Kalischuk et al., one could see a vibrant community of doctors, therapists, specialists, psychologists and psychiatrists whose main source of income is derived through the active treatment of those individuals with gambling problems.
It has been found that 'somewhere between five and seventeen other individuals are adversely affected' by family members who gamble, but what about the people who are helping these gamblers; aren't they positively affected by gamblers? Although a research of literature could not uncover any figures that would support the thesis, it would be interesting to determine exactly how many positively affected individuals there are as compared to negatively affected individuals.
Another source of contention would be two studies conducted by Lorenz and Yaffee. These two researchers found that "86% of spouses contemplated leaving the gambling spouse and 29% did separate from the problem gambler" (Lorenz % Yaffee 1988) and that "59% of problem gamblers considered separating from their partners and this did occur in a third" (Lorenz & Yaffee 1986). If one were to look at the Lorena and Yaffee findings in a negative manner, one would lament the fact that so many problem gamblers consider, and leave, their spouse. Looked at in a positive manner, however, one could say that there are many divorce attorneys living in communities adjacent to cities such as Las Vegas, and that many of these attorneys make a very good living off the misfortunes of those who concentrate more on their gambling habits than on taking care of their families. One could also say that an individual who acted in such a manner, did not really deserve to be a father, mother or family member in the first place. Hence, let them gamble. If they wish to ruin their own lives, and the lives of their loved ones, that is their choice, and there will always be some other individuals that will benefit from such choices.
One could even take a hard core attitude towards the family members who are adversely affected by the gambler's actions by correctly discerning that there are no such things as adverse effects. Spouses and children who go hungry, or are without clothes or shelter due to the wasteful and destructive nature of the gambler become stronger individuals through having to live through such adversities. If they do not become stronger, then they too can become problems to society and therefore will also be a negative influence on their families and loved ones as well. This is not a negative aspect to gambling; remember there are other (more intelligent) individuals who benefit from the actions of the (not so intelligent) individuals who continue to throw their money away on games of chance.
The recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey (BGPS) revealed "that there are a number of socio-demographic factors statistically associated with problem gambling; these include; being male, having a parent who was or is a problem gambler, being single, and having a low income (Griffiths, Wardle, Orford, Sproston, Erens 209). If this is true (at least in Great Britain) then it is further evidence that the curse of gambling addiction runs within families anyhow, so attempting to cure these individuals that are afflicted with gambling problems is a long and arduous procedure. Just because it is difficult to do, does not mean that there should be no one that takes the time and effort to do so. After all, there are livings to be made, and incomes to enhance through the travails of others. Helping problem gamblers to overcome their addictions is not a laughing matter. With nearly 26% of the adult population of the United States known to be gamblers, and the current rate of approximately 1% of these to be addicted to gambling, the figures show that even concentrating on helping that one percent means that there are over a half a million individuals who need counseling and treatment. This is a good number; it is a number that allows for a lot of professionals to make a lot of money.
Other negative aspects that have been connected to gambling include smoking, drinking and poor health. The Griffiths et al. study determined that:
(i) cigarette smokers were significantly more likely to gamble in the past year compared to non-smokers,
(ii) cigarette smokers were over three times more likely than non-smokers to be a problem gambler,
(iii) alcohol consumption as measured by the number of units drunk on the person's heaviest drinking day was not significantly associated with having gambled in the past year,
(iv) alcohol consumption as measured by the number of units drank on the person's heaviest drinking day in the past year was significantly associated with problem gambling,
(v) health status was not significantly associated with past year gambling
(vi) the prevalence rate of problem gambling among those with poor health were over three times as likely to be a problem gambler compared to those with good health (208).
This information opens a brand new ball game. Now even more professionals can be induced to assist in caring for, and treating these gamblers.
Specialists who help those with drinking and smoking problems, and of course doctors, hospitals and clinics will all benefit financially from proffering assistance to those gamblers who fall into one of the five above categories. Suddenly the positive influence displayed by those who suffer from gambling addictions is becoming much clearer. The five to seventeen people who are adversely affected by the gambler's actions may be equaled to the number of people who are positively affected by those same gambler's actions. Additionally, a recent study determined that "problem gamblers also have increased rates of attention deficit…