What is Gambling?

Gambling is an activity that involves risking something of value (money, possessions or reputation) on an event that has a random outcome. It is possible for people to become addicted to gambling, which can have a serious impact on their lives. People who have a gambling problem are often depressed or anxious, have trouble in relationships and work, hide their behaviour and can even steal to support their habit.

Some people who have a gambling problem need help to stop and seek treatment. The first step in the process is to recognise the problem and understand why gambling is causing harm. This is a difficult and emotional journey for some, but there are many services available that can help. These include counselling, family therapy, marriage and career counseling, debt and credit counseling and inpatient/residential treatment. Inpatient and residential treatment are best suited for those with severe problems who cannot manage on their own without round-the-clock care.

Most gamblers are not pathological. In fact, pathological gambling is rare and is characterized by a loss of control, a preoccupation with gambling and obtaining money to gamble, and irrational thinking. It is also a compulsive behaviour that requires ongoing intervention and a person can experience repeated failure to stop gambling despite adverse consequences.

The term ‘gambling’ has been used to describe a range of activities, from playing card games and fruit machines to betting on football accumulators and horse races. It is important to remember that gambling does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law, such as contracts of insurance or guaranty and purchases of stocks or commodities.

There are a variety of reasons why people gamble, from pleasure to entertainment to the chance to win big money. However, it is important to remember that gambling is not a way to make money and that the chances of winning are very low. It is important to only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and to never chase your losses, as this will only lead to bigger and more frequent losses.

Studies have shown that the more enjoyable the gambling experience is, the less likely a person is to gamble excessively. Several reasons for this are suggested, including that pleasurable social interactions increase positive feelings and decrease the likelihood of betting, and that gambling with friends or in the company of strangers reduces gambling (Nygren et al, 1996).

Many people can have a flutter on the pokies, buy a lotto ticket or place a bet on the horses or a football match but for some, it becomes a problem. Compulsive gambling can affect all areas of a person’s life and can be hard to detect. It is possible to get a free, confidential chat with a counsellor who can talk through how gambling might be affecting your life and give advice on how to change your habits.