Gambling is an activity that involves staking something of value (often money) on an event with the potential to win a prize. It can occur in many places, including casinos and racecourses, but it also takes place in socialising settings, such as pubs and clubs, and on the Internet. Gambling is not a safe way to make money and it can be addictive.
In most forms of gambling, you place a bet on an outcome – for example, a football team winning a match or the outcome of a scratchcard game. This choice is then matched to ‘odds’, which determine how much you could win if the bet is successful. It is the odds that make gambling an attractive proposition for punters, as they allow them to compare the chances of winning and losing.
Most people who gamble do so for a variety of reasons. Some may do it for a thrill or excitement, but others do it to relieve boredom or loneliness. For some, gambling is a way of unwinding or relaxing after a stressful day or following an argument with their spouse. For others, it’s a way of socialising with friends or meeting new people. It’s important to recognise that these uses of gambling don’t absolve a person who has developed a gambling disorder of their responsibility for their addiction.
For many people with a gambling disorder, their behaviour starts out as just an occasional problem. They might gamble for social or coping reasons, but do so in small amounts. As their addiction progresses, they will start to gamble for larger and larger sums in an attempt to achieve the same feelings of excitement and euphoria. In addition to the desire to recapture an early win, they will begin to think about what they would do with the money if they won, or how they might change their lifestyle if they won a large amount of cash.
It is estimated that between 2% and 5% of adults have a gambling disorder, which can cause serious problems for them and their families. There are several key symptoms that indicate a problem with gambling, including:
Gambling can be addictive, so it’s important to understand how it works and the risks involved. Only gamble with money you can afford to lose and set time and dollar limits before you play. Never chase your losses – thinking that you’re due for a big win will almost always lead to more loss. If you’re finding it difficult to quit gambling, seek help. Talking to someone who isn’t judgemental – such as a family member, friend or professional counsellor – can be a good start. You should also try to fill the gap that gambling has left in your life with healthy activities, such as exercise and spending time with friends who don’t gamble. Finally, don’t hide your gambling from people – hiding the evidence of your habit can make it harder to quit.