Gambling 101

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event involving chance, with the intent to win something else of value. It can be done in a variety of ways, including playing games like slot machines and bingo, or by placing bets on sports events and other activities, such as horse racing and boxing. The stakes can be anything from a small amount of money to a life-changing jackpot.

For some people, gambling can become a problem that interferes with their health, finances and relationships. But, for most, it’s just an enjoyable pastime. We’ve put together some helpful tips to help you understand how gambling works and where to turn for support if it becomes a concern.

While the psychiatric community generally has viewed compulsive gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, in the 1980s the American Psychiatric Association changed the classification of pathological gambling from an impulse control disorder to a substance use disorder, alongside other conditions such as kleptomania and trichotillomania (hair pulling). As a result, it is now recognized that gambling is a valid addictive behaviour and is treated similarly to other substances.

As the popularity of gambling has grown, so too has the need for more effective treatment. Research shows that problem gamblers respond to the same types of treatments that are used for other addictive behaviours, such as cognitive-behaviour therapy and medication. However, the solitary nature of gambling makes it difficult for addicts to seek help, and many suffer in silence.

It can be hard to understand why your loved one keeps gambling when they seem so erratic and out of control. They may be doing it for social reasons – it’s what their friends do, or they enjoy thinking about what they might do with a big jackpot – or for coping reasons if they are feeling anxious or depressed. But these reasons don’t absolve them of responsibility and they will still be taking a huge risk.

The truth is, everyone has the potential to develop a gambling habit. Even if you’re not an avid gambler, chances are that you have played a game of luck at some point in your life, whether it was buying a lottery ticket or betting on a football match. And while most people who gamble do so responsibly and within their means, there is always the possibility that they could become addicted.

While most gamblers enjoy a quick thrill when they win, it is important to remember that the odds are stacked against them. Games of chance have a vested interest in keeping people hooked for as long as possible, and they are adept at swaying their decisions through techniques such as the ‘early win’, which essentially convinces gamblers that a string of losses or a near miss is actually a sign of a coming jackpot. This is a strategy that can be easily countered with careful research and the right treatment options.