Gambling involves risking something of value – often money – on an event whose outcome is uncertain. This could be betting on a football team to win a game, or buying a scratchcard. The gambler chooses what to bet on, matched to the ‘odds’ (which are usually set by the betting company), which determine how much they would win if they won the bet. Gambling also involves the actual event – such as a game of roulette, or spinning the reels on a slot machine.
Unlike other forms of entertainment, gambling requires three elements: consideration, risk and a prize. The value of the prize can be either cash or goods or services. There are many different types of gambling, from games of marbles and pogs to sports betting and card games. However, most people are familiar with the more formally defined form of gambling, where the gambler bets money on an event whose outcome is uncertain.
For most people, the main reason for gambling is the possibility of winning money. Whether this is a small amount or a large sum, the euphoria associated with winning a jackpot can change your mood and boost self-esteem. People can also gamble for other reasons – to socialise with friends, to take their minds off problems and stress or as an escape from boredom.
But for some, the excitement and escapism of gambling becomes an unhealthy obsession with devastating consequences. Problem gambling can strain relationships, damage health and performance at work and even lead to financial disaster. For some, it can lead to homelessness or suicide.
Gambling addiction can affect anyone from any walk of life, and it can be hard to recognise when you have a problem. It takes a great deal of strength to admit you have a gambling problem, especially when it has cost you a lot of money and damaged your relationships. But the first step in overcoming a gambling problem is taking control of your finances. This means cutting down your use of credit cards, stopping using online gambling sites, getting someone else to manage your money, avoiding gaming venues and not using gambling as an emotional outlet.
If you’re struggling to control your gambling, talk with a counsellor. The Better Health Channel can match you with a professional, licensed and vetted therapist who can help you overcome your gambling issues. It’s free, confidential and available 24/7.