Gambling is a form of entertainment where people wager something of value on an event with the hope of winning something else of value. It is a risky activity and can be addictive, whether you are losing or winning. Often, gambling causes people to lose not only their money but also their family and relationships. It is important to seek help if you feel you have a problem with gambling.
The vast majority of the world’s money is legally wagered on sports, lottery games and other gambling activities. These events are governed by laws that differ widely across countries and regions. Many governments regulate the games and limit their stakes, but others have no restrictions at all. In the United States, there are numerous legal forms of gambling, including casinos, racetracks, state-licensed lotteries and online gambling.
Betting companies promote their wares through advertising on TV, social media and wall-to-wall football sponsorships, but the odds that punters place are often deceptive. Betting firms make their profits by convincing punters that they have a good chance of winning, even though they don’t.
It is estimated that about 2% of the population has a gambling disorder. These individuals engage in gambling behaviors that, at the time of the behavior, meet diagnostic criteria from any of the four categories of gambling disorder specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). They are characterized by an excessive preoccupation with gambling; a desire to win or avoid loss, which can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety, depression or guilt; lying to family members or therapists about their involvement in gambling; or engaging in illegal acts such as forgery, embezzlement, fraud, theft or loan sharking to finance gambling.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with gambling addiction, try to be sympathetic rather than angry or judgemental. Understand that their addiction is not their fault, and that they likely don’t realise how gambling works. They may have gambled for coping reasons – to forget their worries, or because it makes them feel more confident. They may have a tendency to believe that certain rituals will bring them luck, or that they can always recover any losses by gambling more.
It is best to only gamble with disposable income, and never with money that you need to pay bills or rent. If you find it hard to stay focused when gambling, take regular breaks and try not to think about the money you could be missing out on. If you are struggling to break the habit, you can get help from a variety of different sources. Peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous can be an excellent source of advice and encouragement. Other treatments for gambling disorders include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This will look at beliefs and behaviours that contribute to problem gambling, such as believing you are more likely to win, or thinking you can recoup your losses by gambling more.