Whether it’s online or in person, gambling involves putting something of value (usually money) at risk on an event with an element of chance and the potential to win something else of value. This can include a game of poker, slot machines, fruit machines, bingo, lottery tickets, horse and greyhound races, football accumulators, keno, scratch cards or sports betting.
Having a compulsion to gamble can have negative impacts on both the gambler and others, including family members, friends and colleagues. It can also result in legal problems, such as forgery, fraud, theft and embezzlement.
Gambling addiction is a recognised medical issue and there are ways to help someone overcome it. Support services are available for both gamblers and those who care about them. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not your responsibility to change someone’s behaviour – it is up to them to make their own choices.
People with a gambling problem may experience a variety of emotions, including anger and shame. These feelings are completely normal and it’s important to recognise that they’re there. It’s also important to understand that there are healthier and safer ways to relieve unpleasant emotions, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble or relaxing techniques.
If you’re struggling to control your gambling, it’s a good idea to talk about it with someone you trust who won’t judge you. This could be a friend or professional counsellor. In addition, you can try to reduce financial risks by stopping the use of credit cards and other high-interest debt, avoiding gambling venues and not carrying large amounts of cash. You can also socialise with non-gambling friends and find new hobbies to replace gambling.
A major challenge for someone who is trying to quit is retraining the brain’s response to excitement and reward. In many cases, a gambling urge is triggered by an emotional trigger, such as boredom or stress, and the brain’s reaction is to reward and excite itself.
It’s important to keep in mind that while gambling can provide a rush of pleasure and excitement, it’s not a way to make money, even when winning. In fact, it’s likely to cost you more in the long run than it will pay out.
Many studies that look at the economic impact of gambling focus on the benefits, rather than the costs. This type of study is known as a gross impact analysis and focuses on only one aspect of the gambling industry. These studies are a step in the right direction, but they must be taken with caution. In particular, these types of studies often neglect to consider intangible benefits and costs (Fahrenkopf et al., 1995; Meyer-Arendt, 1995). This is a serious shortcoming because intangible effects can be as real and significant as tangible ones. For example, construction of a casino might result in the destruction of wetlands and would require compensatory measures to offset this loss. The difference between intangible and tangible effects is often not clear to the general public.