Gambling is placing something of value, usually money, on an event that has an element of chance and where the result cannot be determined with certainty. This could be a football match, a game of cards or even the roll of the dice. People gamble for many reasons – the adrenaline rush, socialising or escaping from stress or worries. However, for some people gambling can become an addiction and cause problems.
The act of gambling is illegal in some jurisdictions, and there are laws to prevent people from gaining advantage over others. Some governments limit the number of casinos and other gambling establishments, while others regulate them and tax them. There are also laws to protect players and ensure that the odds of winning are correctly presented.
In the past, gambling was mainly conducted in physical establishments. This included betting offices, racetracks, horse stables and casinos. However, technological advances have allowed gambling to be carried out remotely, on the internet or through video poker machines. This has led to a proliferation of online casino games, as well as mobile phone applications that let people play on the go.
While there are some restrictions on gambling in some countries, it is still a popular activity worldwide and has been incorporated into some sports events. For example, the odds of a certain team winning a football match are set by the bookmaker, and the bettors place their money on this outcome. In addition, a large portion of the stock market is based on gambling, as bettors try to predict the price of a given company’s shares in the future. The same goes for the premium paid to buy life insurance, which is a form of gambling that is regulated by actuarial calculations.
Research shows that when we gamble, brain regions involved in reward and motivation become active, as do areas associated with impulse control. In some cases, repeated exposure to gambling can lead to changes in the brain that are similar to those seen with drug abuse. For this reason, gambling has been moved from the psychiatric category of substance use disorders to a new section on behavioral addictions in the latest edition of the DSM, the diagnostic manual for mental health professionals.
If you think your gambling is out of control, there are things you can do to help. Seek support from a friend or family member, or a professional counsellor. Reduce financial risk by stopping the use of credit cards and carrying large amounts of cash. Find an alternative way to socialise and escape from stress, such as a hobby or exercise. Postpone gambling until you are feeling stronger, or try a self-help technique such as distraction or relapse prevention. Also, seek family therapy and credit counseling. This can help you work through the specific issues caused by problem gambling and rebuild your relationship with your partner. Also, check out the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’.