What is Gambling?

Whether it is playing cards with friends for small amounts of money, placing a bet on a horse or sports event, buying a lottery ticket or using the pokies, gambling is an activity many people engage in at some time or another. However, for some it can become a serious problem, impacting their health and wellbeing. It can also damage their relationships, job or study performance and cause them to be in serious debt. Some even end up homeless or in prison. This article will help you understand how gambling works, the risks associated with it and what to do if you think you or someone you know has a problem.

What is gambling?

Gambling is an activity where individuals risk something of value (money or other assets) on an event whose outcome is uncertain. The aim is to win more than what is lost. This could be a cash prize, goods or services. There are two kinds of gambling – social and professional. Social gambling includes card games and board games where a small amount of money is exchanged, such as poker or pinball. It may also include betting on sporting events or horse races, where the prize can range from a small amount of money to a life-changing jackpot.

Professional gambling involves a deeper understanding of the game(s) and strategy, and an ability to consistently win over the long term. The most common form of professional gambling is betting on horse races and sport, but it can also include the likes of online poker, casinos and slot machines.

Although gambling has been around for centuries, it was suppressed by law in many countries until the late 20th century. Today, it is more acceptable and accessible than ever before, with many states legalising different forms of it. Despite this, four in five Americans say they have gambled at some point in their lives.

The most important thing to remember is that if you do have a gambling problem, it is treatable. You can get help and support from specialist treatment and rehabilitation programs. These are often available in a residential setting, and can be either short or long term. You can find out more about what is available in your area by visiting the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling and addiction’.

If you have a friend or family member with a gambling problem, talk to them about it. Explain how gambling works and the risks involved, and encourage them to seek help if they need it. It can be helpful to tell them about the effective treatments that are available, as well as local resources they can use for support. You can also help by ensuring you only gamble with money that is disposable, and never with money you need to pay bills or rent. This will help to avoid financial harm and prevent you from chasing your losses. It is also important to find ways to fill the time that you would normally spend gambling with other enjoyable activities.