What is Gambling and How Can it Affect You?


Gambling is an activity where people risk money or items of value on the outcome of an event involving chance, such as a game of cards, a scratch card or betting on sports events. This can take place in casinos, lotteries, private settings or online. Some forms of gambling are legal and some are not. Research has shown that gambling can be addictive and can lead to financial, social and family problems. It is important to know your limits and never gamble more than you can afford to lose.

In the past, gambling was often viewed as a vice and was heavily regulated by governments across the world. However, technology has changed the way we gamble and many people now have access to games they would have only dreamed of playing a few decades ago. These games include video poker, slot machines, fruit machines and two-up, casino tables such as blackjack or roulette, horse and greyhound races, football accumulators, lottery games and betting on business and insurance and stock market outcomes.

Traditionally, gambling has been a source of entertainment and has offered social interaction in a fun environment. It has also been a form of relaxation and can help to ease stress. In addition, it can also be a source of pleasure from winning and losing. Psychologically, gambling stimulates the brain and releases a feel-good hormone called dopamine. This can lead to addiction, as the release of dopamine is similar to that produced by taking drugs such as cocaine or heroin.

Gambling is one of the oldest pastimes known to man and has been around for thousands of years. There is evidence that gambling was a major part of the ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Roman cultures and is even documented in the Bible. It is believed to have developed from divinatory activities where men threw sticks and other objects to try and understand the intentions of the gods.

There are several ways to get help for gambling addiction and some of the most effective are peer support groups, therapists and 12 step programmes such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model. Many people have successfully overcome their gambling addiction and rebuilt their lives but it takes tremendous strength to recognise you have a problem, especially when you’ve lost a great deal of money or strained or broken relationships.

It is essential to have a good support network when tackling a gambling addiction and it can be beneficial to make new friends who do not share your passion for gambling or who can help you avoid temptation. If you do not have a support network in place, consider reaching out to colleagues at work or joining a book club, a sporting team or a volunteer organisation. You could also consider finding an addiction recovery group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is free to join and consists of former gamblers who have experienced overcoming their addiction. You can find out more about the different types of gambling and the risks involved on our Gambling page.