The positive effects of gambling have been documented in the literature. Recreational gamblers reported better health and a lower risk of mortality, while people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds exhibited increased optimism and self-esteem as a result of gambling. Moreover, research suggests that gambling may be beneficial for individuals with mental health problems, as well as those who are prone to addiction. The psychological benefits of gambling are worth investigating and understanding before attempting it.

The most widely used approach to evaluate the effects of gambling in society is the cost of illness, which ignores the positive effects of the activity. A more balanced approach measures the benefits of gambling in societal terms, and assigns monetary values to changes in well-being in common units, such as dollars. The economic cost-benefit analysis, by contrast, seeks to identify the benefits of gambling, while at the same time taking into account the costs of social harm.

Although gambling has been a popular activity in the United States for centuries, it has been heavily suppressed by law in many areas for almost as long. In the early 20th century, gambling was almost universally outlawed, contributing to the development of criminal organizations and the mafia. However, attitudes towards gambling have gradually shifted, and laws against it have been relaxed. Gambling is still illegal in most states, but many jurisdictions allow it.