What is Gambling?

Gambling is the act of risking something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome. It includes any activity where the outcome is determined by chance, such as a lottery, scratchcard or betting on sports events or other games of chance. It does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law, such as contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health or accident insurance.

Although gambling is often viewed as an enjoyable pastime, it can cause harm. It can affect your mental and physical health, strain relationships, affect work or study performance and leave you in serious debt. If left unchecked, it can even lead to homelessness and suicide. Public Health England estimates that over 400 people take their own lives each year because of problem gambling.

Whether you are buying a Lotto ticket, placing a bet on the horse races or using the pokies, it is important to understand how gambling works so that you can keep yourself safe. Rather than seeing gambling as a way to make money, treat it like any other expense and only gamble with money you can afford to lose.

If you are concerned that you might have a gambling problem, it is important to seek help. There are many ways to get support, including online resources and self-help groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. Talking to a therapist is also an option. Your therapist can help you identify the root causes of your gambling problems and develop a plan for recovery.

It can be difficult to recognise that you have a gambling problem, especially if it has cost you money and strained or broken relationships. It may also feel like you are the only one who has this issue. But there are many others who have overcome their gambling addiction and rebuilt their lives.

Symptoms of a gambling problem include difficulty controlling your spending, lying to others about your gambling, hiding evidence of gambling, and losing control over other aspects of your life, such as work or relationships. You might have feelings of shame, guilt or resentment about your behaviour. Having trouble sleeping or experiencing mood swings are also common symptoms of gambling problems.

Pathological gambling (PG) is an impulse-control disorder that affects 0.4-1.6% of the population. It usually starts during adolescence or young adulthood and gets worse over time. It is more common in men than in women, and it tends to be more severe in those who start gambling at a younger age. PG can affect any type of gambling, but it is more likely to occur in strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as poker or blackjack, than in nonstrategic, remote forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.

The earliest evidence of gambling is thought to be from ancient China, with tiles found that appear to show a rudimentary game of chance. Since then, gambling has spread across the world and is now a global industry, with revenues exceeding $150 billion in 2021.