Gambling is a form of entertainment where people stake something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome, usually with the primary intent of winning additional money or material goods. It can take many forms, including lotteries, casino games and sports betting. Some gambling activities are legal, regulated by the state and offer a high level of skill while others involve chance with little or no skill. Some people may be genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, which can increase their risk of developing a gambling problem.
Gambling happens all around the world, from casinos to racetracks and online. It has a big impact on the economy of countries, contributing a percentage of GDP in some regions. It also provides employment to many people. Despite its popularity, it is important to understand how gambling can become addictive and what to look out for in order to recognise a problem.
Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, placing a bet on the horses, betting on sporting events or using the pokies, most people gamble at some stage. However, some people’s gambling becomes problematic and they start to lose control of their finances, relationships and lives.
Some people gamble for social reasons, to have fun and bond with friends. For example, they may go out together to the casino or the racetrack, or they might buy lottery tickets as a group. Other people gamble for financial reasons, to win a prize or change their lifestyle.
When someone gambles, their brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes them feel excited and happy. This is why gambling can be so addictive – it feels like a rush when you’re winning and it’s hard to stop. However, it’s also important to note that you’re likely to lose money when you gamble, and this can be emotionally devastating if you don’t manage your bankroll properly.
There are some people who are predisposed to develop a gambling disorder, and the risk increases with age and gender. Pathological gambling (PG) is a recognised mental health condition and the symptoms include:
1) Spending more time on gambling than they intend to, or being reluctant to stop; 2) Lying to family members or therapists about their involvement with gambling; 3) Returning to a game after losing in an attempt to get even (“chasing” losses); 4) Being addicted to gambling and spending excessive amounts of time on it; 5) Using credit cards to fund gambling, or lying about or concealing income to finance it; and 6) jeopardizing or losing a job, relationship or education opportunity because of gambling.
It can be difficult coping with a loved one who has a gambling addiction, especially when they continue to request “one last win”. Understanding how gambling works and why it can be so difficult to quit can help you understand their reasoning and keep them accountable. It is also crucial to have firm boundaries around managing your own money, so make sure you remove their credit cards and have them put in the care of another person or close their online betting accounts.