Preventing Harmful Gambling


Gambling is risking something of value (usually money) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, with the hope of winning something else of value. It does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts, such as purchasing or selling securities or commodities, transferring money for payment of annuities and life, health and accident insurance.

When most people think of gambling, they imagine casino floors, slot machines and betting on horse races or sports events. But the reality is that people gamble all sorts of ways. It could be buying lottery tickets, playing bingo, scratching an office pool or even just putting a bet on the outcome of a TV show.

While some gambling behaviours can be harmless, others can lead to harm. A key to preventing harmful gambling is recognising when it is getting out of hand. If you are noticing symptoms of harmful gambling, talk to your doctor or counsellor.

To prevent harmful gambling, it’s important to understand how the brain works when it comes to gambling. It’s also helpful to know what factors can trigger problematic gambling. Some of these factors are behavioural, such as social environments and user growth incentives (e.g., free play, loyalty programs). Other factors are cognitive, such as beliefs around the likelihood of success and rituals associated with gambling. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help people change these beliefs and behaviours. For instance, CBT can teach people to expect to lose when they gamble and to stop chasing their losses.