What Is Gambling?

Gambling is the risking of something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the intention of winning something else of value. The term gambling usually refers to betting on events such as football matches, horse races, or scratchcard games, but it also includes wagering with friends and even office pools. It can have both short- and long-term financial, emotional, family, and social impacts.

Pathological gambling (PG) is an addiction characterized by maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior that are persistent and recurrent over time, interfering with a person’s daily functioning. PG is estimated to affect 0.4%-1.6% of Americans and appears to have a higher prevalence in people with other mental health conditions, including psychiatric disorders, substance use problems, and Parkinson’s disease. The onset of PG is generally in late adolescence or young adulthood and tends to be gender-specific. Men develop PG at a faster rate and at an earlier age than women, and they are more likely to report problems with strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as blackjack or poker, while women experience PG primarily with nonstrategic or less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.

Problem gamblers are more vulnerable to financial crisis than other people and may turn to gambling as a way of managing debt, but it is not a good long-term solution. A debt management agency like StepChange can help you with free, confidential advice on how to deal with your money issues.

A gambling disorder may be a sign of underlying mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder. It is also associated with a number of personality traits, such as low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. People who have poor impulse control are particularly at risk of developing a gambling disorder and often engage in risk-taking behaviors.

Impulsivity is a major component of the development and maintenance of gambling problems. People who are impulsive have difficulty controlling their behavior and do not consider the consequences of their actions before executing them. This leads to risk-taking and a failure to understand the monetary risks involved in gambling. This impulsiveness also results in the inability to stop gambling when they are losing. It can also lead to a “gambler’s fallacy,” which is the false belief that one’s luck will suddenly change and they will win back their lost funds. Consequently, it is important for family members to set boundaries with their loved ones regarding their gambling activities and to avoid engaging in “chasing” losses. They should also seek professional treatment for themselves and their loved ones if they are having trouble coping with the problems caused by a gambling disorder. Having a supportive community is essential when dealing with a gambling disorder. In addition to individual and family therapy, there are a number of other support services available, such as marriage, career, and credit counseling. These services can provide tools for overcoming the problem and repairing damaged relationships and finances.