Gambling is the wagering of something of value, usually money, on an event that relies on chance. Games of chance that don’t involve real money are also popular, like marbles or games with collectable game pieces (like Pogs and Magic: The Gathering). Gambling is an international commercial activity and a major source of revenue for many states.

Some people gamble to relieve unpleasant feelings. Others do it to socialize or escape boredom. Some may even be addicted to gambling just as they can be addicted to drugs. But it’s not a good idea to try and cope with problem gambling alone. Family therapy and other professional support is available for those who struggle with the issue.

Research has shown that gambling affects the brain in much the same way as drugs do. Both can change the levels of chemicals that regulate our emotions and our impulse control.

It can be difficult to find help for a loved one with a gambling problem, especially if you are the person who finances their habit. But there is help out there, from debt advice to addiction treatment. You can also seek help for yourself, through family therapy and marriage, career or credit counseling.

Many studies have attempted to estimate the benefits and costs of gambling, using benefit-cost analysis. However, these analyses often focus on the impact of a single community, making them difficult to generalize. A more comprehensive approach is needed, including consideration of externality costs (such as criminal justice system expenses and lost productivity). In this article we examine the current state of the art in gambling benefit-cost analysis, and suggest directions for future work.