Gambling – Is it a Problem?


Gambling is an activity where you risk something of value (like money or your belongings) on a random event with the intention of winning something else of value. It includes card games, fruit machines, video-draw poker and casino games such as roulette and blackjack. It also includes betting on horse or greyhound races, football accumulators and other sporting events, lottery tickets and scratchcards. In the past, the psychiatric community generally regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, but in May this year the American Psychiatric Association moved it to the addictions chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

People gamble for a number of reasons, including the adrenaline rush of winning, socialising with friends or escaping from boredom or stress. But gambling can become problematic when it starts to interfere with your life and cause financial problems, such as debt. If you’re worried about your gambling habits, talk to a professional counsellor or seek advice from StepChange for free debt help.

Problem gambling is often triggered by a mental health problem or other life stressors, such as relationship difficulties or unemployment. It can also be a way of self-soothing unpleasant emotions or relieving boredom, though there are healthier and more effective ways to do this, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or taking up a new hobby.

When you gamble, you have to decide whether or not to place a bet and how much you’re willing to stake. This decision is based on the likelihood of winning, which is determined by a combination of chance and skill. The higher the probability of winning, the greater the payout. A professional gambler is someone who makes a living primarily by gambling, and uses strategy and knowledge to consistently win over the long term.

A person who has a gambling problem is likely to experience symptoms like: – a desire to gamble, even when you’re tired or stressed; – lying to family members or therapists about the extent of your involvement in gambling; – continuing to gamble after losing large sums of money; – chasing losses (trying to recover your previous losses); and – stealing or fraud to finance your gambling (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

If you’re concerned that your gambling is out of control, there are things you can do to help. Talk to a professional counsellor or get help from a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program based on Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also reduce your financial risk by getting rid of credit cards, putting someone else in charge of your finances and keeping a low amount of cash on you. Also, find healthy ways to relieve boredom or stressful feelings, such as by finding a new hobby or exercising.