The Risks of Gambling and How to Recognize the Signs of a Problem

Gambling is risking something of value on an event that is largely determined by chance with the hope of winning and gaining something of value (usually money). It includes all forms of gaming, including casino games like slots, roulette and blackjack, sports betting, lottery games, bingo, and poker. It also encompasses online gambling.

While gambling can be a fun and harmless diversion, it can become an addiction with serious consequences that interfere with work, family, and social life. It can even lead to committing illegal acts in order to finance the activity, such as embezzlement and forgery. This is why it’s important to understand the risks of gambling and how to recognize the signs of a problem.

There are many causes of gambling problems, and some of them may predate the onset of gambling. These include mood disorders such as depression, stress and substance abuse that can trigger gambling problems or be made worse by compulsive gambling. Boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, a poor understanding of random events and use of escape coping are other common factors in people who develop gambling problems.

Gambling has been around since ancient times, and the earliest evidence comes from China with tiles that appeared to be used for a rudimentary game of chance. Over time, it has evolved from a game of pure luck to one that involves skill and knowledge. Today, there are thousands of casinos and other gambling establishments worldwide that generate huge amounts of revenue each year from customers who place bets on everything from slot machines to horse races to lottery tickets.

The legal definition of gambling varies from state to state, but it generally defines the activity as putting “something of value at risk upon an uncertain future contingent event not under the control or influence of the player.” It excludes bona fide business transactions based on the law of contracts, such as the purchase of securities, commodities and contract of indemnity or guaranty and life, health and accident insurance.

A person is considered to have a gambling problem when he or she:

(1) loses control of money and/or other assets in gambling;

(2) spends more than he or she can afford to lose;

(3) lies to family members, therapist or others about his or her involvement with gambling;

(4) attempts to conceal the extent of his or her involvement in gambling;

(5) feels compelled to gamble even when there is clear harm;

(6) lies about his or her losses;

or (7) has jeopardized a significant relationship, job or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.

If you know someone who has a gambling problem, help is available. Identifying the problem is the first step toward getting the support and treatment you or your loved one needs. You can find resources that offer support, counseling and education for those who have a gambling problem by searching the Internet or calling local community organizations. In addition, it’s a good idea to seek out help from family and friends who have had similar experiences.